Discussion about who is the greatest investor is a never-ending argument. You can make a case for Warren Buffett, Peter Lynch, and George Soros, among countless others. One institution you aren't likely to mention in the same breath is the United States government.
Investments the government made in banks and other financial institutions under TARP have been well-documented, so I'm going to focus on another sector that received plenty of government support over the past few years: energy.
China completes solar takeover
It's no secret that China is the new epicenter of solar manufacturing. U.S. firms that don't manufacture in China are at least close, with facilities in Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam. But the government thought Evergreen Solar
The Massachusetts government put $58 million into Evergreen Solar, and now the company says it is obligated to pay back only $4 million. A 93% loss on its original investment probably wasn't what Massachusetts was looking for.
Batteries staying here, for now
Another emerging energy technology getting plenty of government money is electric vehicles. For electric vehicles to be feasible, they need batteries, lots of batteries. Two high-tech battery makers, Ener1
In a sign we may be repeating history, Ener1 just signed an agreement with Wanxiang Electric Vehicle Co. to co-manufacture batteries in China. Ener1 may not be relocating its entire operation to China anytime soon, but heat from Advanced Battery Technologies
Government money hasn't led to shareholder returns either. Evergreen is on the cusp of bankruptcy or a major reorganization, Ener1 is down 18.8% over the past year, and A123 Systems is down a whopping 49.6% in the same time frame. To me, it looks like investing alongside the government in the energy sector is a recipe for disaster.
Fool contributor Travis Hoium does not have a position in any company mentioned. You can follow Travis on Twitter at @FlushDrawFool, check out his personal stock holdings or follow his CAPS picks at TMFFlushDraw.
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