Lawmakers want answers on why the federal government allegedly handed over to China expensive, advanced battery technology that cost taxpayers millions of dollars to develop.
Sens. Joni Ernst, Iowa Republican, and John Barrasso, Wyoming Republican, said Monday that they want the Department of Energy to investigate the alleged illicit transfer of $15 million worth of the technology to China.
“We are concerned that this is an overt dereliction of duty by DOE, and that this case may be emblematic of a department that routinely and flippantly permits government-funded technology to be transferred to China,” the senators wrote to Energy Department Inspector General Teri Donaldson.
The senators said an NPR report about the government transferring vanadium redox battery technology prompted their request for an investigation.
Scientists at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory took six years and $15 million in taxpayer funding to develop the batteries that appeared capable of charging and recharging for 30 years and did not degrade like car or cellphone batteries, according to NPR.
After a government-funded scientist could not find U.S. support to build the batteries outside the lab, he reportedly found a willing investor from China.
A Chinese company, Dalian Rongke Power Co., first got a sublicense to manufacture the tech in 2017, and a Dutch company, Vanadis Power, received a full license in 2021, according to the senators. Vanadis Power publicly expressed its intent to build the batteries in China.
The senators wrote that American companies sought licenses while the Department of Energy transferred the taxpayer-funded tech to China.
“In the interest of both our economic and national security, we respectfully ask that your office takes the necessary steps to review this misconduct with an appropriate level of scrutiny and request that you report the findings of this review to us as soon as possible,” the senators wrote to Ms. Donaldson.