Ford’s Electric Vehicle Lobbyist Appointed Energy Department Advisor

Ford’s leading electric vehicle lobbyist, who defended the automaker’s use of taxpayer funds to develop batteries with Chinese technology, has been appointed as an advisor to Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm.

Earlier this month, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm appointed Ford lobbyist Christopher Smith to serve on her Secretary of Energy Advisory Board, which advises on the pursuit of a “global clean energy revolution.” 

While retaining his role as Ford’s chief government affairs officer, Smith has lobbied various federal entities on green policies. Ford’s recent disclosure revealed that Smith had advocated for electric vehicles and greenhouse gas emission regulations to the Energy Department just before Granholm named him to the advisory board.

In February, Ford unveiled plans to open a multibillion-dollar battery plant in Michigan in partnership with Contemporary Amperex Technology Co., Limited (CATL), which will provide technology, equipment and personnel for the plant’s construction and operation. 

Despite provisions in President Joe Biden’s “Inflation Reduction Act” aimed at preventing China from receiving funds, Ford plans to use the factory to receive substantial subsidies and tax breaks.

As congressional Republicans criticized Ford’s Chinese partnership, the automaker sent Smith to defend the deal. In a March 6 op-ed, Smith asserted that Ford’s Chinese partners would not have control over the plant and would not directly receive taxpayer funds. However, Ford has acknowledged that CATL will provide personnel “to assist with operations,” and any federal subsidies received by Ford through the plant would undoubtedly aid the company in licensing its Chinese partner’s technology.

Granholm may have been satisfied with Smith’s explanation, but top China critics on Capitol Hill have not been placated. Following Smith’s op-ed, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) introduced a bill that seeks to prevent Ford from utilizing taxpayer funds to construct batteries using Chinese technology.

The Energy Department did not respond to a request for comment. Ford informed the Washington Free Beacon that the Biden administration is “aware” of Smith’s lobbying efforts. The company also asserted that it does not have a “partnership” with CATL since its agreement with the Chinese battery manufacturer does not confer direct ownership in the Michigan factory. 

However, congressional Republicans have argued that this arrangement is intended to exploit a loophole that enables Ford to receive taxpayer funds while still benefiting from Chinese manufacturing.

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