Bringing the number of tombstones in Heritage’s Green Graveyard to 20 is ReVolt Technology, a Portland-based company, which specialized in developing zinc-air flow battery systems.

ReVolt earned its place in the Graveyard when it declared bankruptcy, despite the fact it had been offered a whopping $10 million in funds from federal, state, and local governments. The Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy offered a $5 million grant in 2010. Oregon matched the federal government’s promise with $5 million worth of loans.

The federal Department of Energy (DOE) promised taxpayers that it had closely examined each applicant, and according to DOE spokesman Damien LeVera, the companies “were rejected, if they looked too rich or too risky.” By the looks of it, ReVolt must have fallen through the cracks.

It appears that DOE failed to adequately scrutinize ReVolt Technology, but the Portland Development Commission (PDC) saw the writing on the wall. A mere two months after the DOE offered ReVolt an ARPA-E grant, the PDC also promised the company a $1.2 million loan. But unlike the DOE, PDC acknowledged from the get-go that “this one [ReVolt] we identified as high risk.”

While the government’s poor discretion and bad policy is to blame for this loss, taxpayers are the ones left with the bill.

Government’s Bad Bet: $10 million

Elinor Renner, part of the Young Leaders Program at Heritage, contributed to this post.