The Department of Energy’s inspector general is investigating why the Joe Biden Administration gave battery technology that was developed with taxpayer money to a Chinese company rather than making them in the U.S.
China is currently building one of the most powerful battery grids using this technology. It could store enormous amounts of solar energy and not degrade over time or require lithium. This will reduce the environmental impact of green technology that ends in landfills.
Sens. Joni Ernst (R.IA) and John Barrasso, both Republicans from Wyoming, wrote a letter to an internal watchdog at the DOE.
They wrote that the company that was granted the license stated plainly on their website that they intended to manufacture the batteries from China. However, the license stipulated that the batteries must be “substantially manufactured” in the United States. DOE did not raise any concerns about this.
The senators concluded that “We are concerned that this represents an overt dereliction in duty by DOE and that this case may represent a department which routinely and flippantly allows government-funded technology to be transferred to China.”
Inspector General Teri Donaldson responded this month by saying that she was conducting a thorough investigation into the matter.
NPR reported in August that U.S. government-funded scientists at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory had created the “vanadium-redox flow battery,” which can store enough energy to power a home and last for up to 30 years. This technology will make it easier for people to rely on sunlight.
The patent is owned by the U.S. government. In 2012, Gary Yang, one of the scientists who developed it, was granted a license to use it for commercialization. NPR reported that he started UniEnergy Technology but ran into funding difficulties.
Yang, an American citizen born in China, obtained a sublicense from the DOE in 2017 to allow a Chinese company to manufacture the batteries. He transferred the license to Vanadis Power in 2021. They said they would manufacture the batteries in China, but that eventually, production would be moved to Europe.
America also had these rules but was less strict in enforcing them. UniEnergy requested approval to transfer the license from Vanadis to the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory on July 7, 2021. The government responded within 90 minutes. Vanadis had stated that the battery would be made in China, but the email was not approved by the government.
NPR was told by unnamed DOE officials that they often rely upon “good faith disclosures”, or the honor system.
NPR was told by Forever Energy, an American company that had been telling DOE that the license was not in compliance. However, they were ignored.
The DOE has revoked the license following questions from NPR. This could allow Forever Energy to use the license.
A Forever executive stated that the U.S. is now far behind and that she doesn’t believe China will stop producing the technology because it does not have the license.
Ernst stated last month that many taxpayer-funded tech breakthroughs end up in China. A confidential Department of Defense report said “China, not America, is the ultimate beneficiary of DoD [U.S. Government] research investments.”