WASHINGTON — Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm jokingly referred to President Biden as “the man with the cash” at a Wednesday event announcing $2.8 billion in federal grants to companies involved in the production of electric vehicle batteries.
“It’s my pleasure to turn it back over to the man with the cash, President Biden!” Granholm said at a virtual event with some of the 20 recipient companies in the White House-adjacent Eisenhower Executive Office Building.
Biden laughed but otherwise didn’t comment on Granholm’s remark before saying there’s a “new industrial revolution” underway through the development of advanced technology.
Describing federal financial decisions as the president’s right, when the Constitution grants Congress the power to control spending, can be politically sensitive.
The grants announced Wednesday are the first tranche of $7 billion allocated for battery-makers in last year’s $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure law.
The spending is intended to help US companies counter China’s advantage in the production and processing of minerals essential for electric vehicle batteries, such as lithium, nickel, cobalt and graphite.
Biden said at the event that the grants would help US companies compete in the electric vehicle market — without disclosing his own family’s role in helping the Chinese battery industry gain dominance of necessary minerals.
“This is critically important because the future of vehicles is electric. But the battery is a key part of that electric vehicle,” Biden said.
“And right now… 75% of that battery manufacturing is done in China. And for some battery components and critical materials, China controls nearly half the global production.”
Biden added, “By undercutting US manufacturers with their unfair subsidies and trade practices, China seized a significant portion of the market. Today, we’re stepping up to really take it back — not all of it, but bold goals — bold goals and actions to make sure we’re back in the game.”
It’s unclear to what extent Biden actually participated in decision-making about grant recipients. The largest grant — of $316 million to Ascend Elements — finances a battery factory in deeply Republican southwest Kentucky that’s projected to be able to make 250,000 electric vehicle batteries annually.
While touting the need to boost US battery-makers, Biden didn’t address the fact that a company cofounded with his son Hunter steered cobalt away from the US and toward China through his firm BHR Partners.
BHR was co-founded by Hunter Biden in 2013 about two weeks after the then-second son joined his vice-president father aboard Air Force Two for an official visit to Beijing. Hunter introduced his dad to BHR CEO Jonathan Li in the lobby of a hotel in China’s capital before the investment fund launched and the elder Biden later wrote college recommendation letters for Li’s son and daughter.
BHR facilitated the 2016 sale for $3.8 billion of a Congolese cobalt mine from a US company to a Chinese one. The corporate transaction gained significant attention last year when it was highlighted by the New York Times.
Hunter Biden’s attorney Chris Clark claimed less than a week after his father’s November 2021 virtual summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping that Hunter divested his 10% stake in BHR. But Hunter Biden and the White House provided no further details and online records indicate that Hunter Biden still owns the stake.
In a different Biden family deal involving China, government-linked energy company CEFC China Energy, an arm of the Chinese government’s “Belt and Road” initiative, paid Hunter Biden and first brother Jim Biden $4.8 million in 2017 and 2018, according to the Washington Post. The nature of the Biden family’s services in exchange for the funds remains murky.
Former Hunter Biden business partner Tony Bobulinski alleged one month before the 2020 election that Joe Biden was directly involved with the CEFC deal before launching his presidential campaign.
Bobulinski said that he spoke with the future president in May 2017 about the project and that Joe Biden was the “big guy” described in an email the same month as due a 10% stake in the initiative. A different business associate, James Gilliar, also identified Joe Biden as the “big guy.”
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