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Energy Department vows quick approval for loans to help automakers retool

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Energy Department vows quick approval for loans to help automakers retool

David Shepardson / The Detroit News

Washington -- U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu vowed Thursday to quickly approve additional loans for automakers, parts suppliers and startups to retool factories to develop and build more fuel-efficient vehicles.

"We are working as fast as we can," Chu said in a conference call with reporters to tout new job-training grants, adding he hopes to make announcements on loans soon.

The Detroit News reported this month that most of the 100 automakers, suppliers and start-ups seeking the remaining $16 billion in low-cost government loans have been rejected, given up or are still waiting.

The Energy Department has awarded less than $9 billion from the fund to four automakers and one supplier. And it hasn't approved a new loan in five months. General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group LLC are among those waiting for loans.

Chu also announced $5 million in job-training grants in Michigan that will help about 600 workers learn new skills in the utility and electrical manufacturing industries.

Auto companies big, small have applied

GM disclosed this week that it is seeking a total of $14.4 billion in retooling loans after acquiring part of Delphi Corp.'s business.

GM's expanded request includes Delphi's application for money to retool plants to improve electric power steering systems for better fuel efficiency.

Earlier, GM had said it was seeking $10.8 billion, while Chrysler has sought $8.55 billion.

Ford Motor Co., which sought $11 billion, won a $5.9 billion loan in June, and Nissan Motor Co. won $1.6 billion, which is what it sought.

Startup companies Tesla Motors and Fisker Automotive were awarded $465 million and $529 million, respectively. Supplier Tenneco was approved for $24 million in October to produce fuel-efficient parts.

Fed grant programs to train thousands

The job-training grants awarded to Michigan are part of $100 million in funding for 54 projects nationwide.

The federal funding is backed with more than $95 million in funding from community colleges, universities, utilities and manufacturers to develop and implement training programs.

The programs will train approximately 30,000 Americans.

These workers "will help to modernize the nation's electrical grid and implement smart grid technologies in communities across the state," the Energy Department said.

"This funding will provide these workers with the skills to work on smart grid projects, which are vital to lowering energy costs for businesses and consumers," said Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing.

Michigan's $5 million award was for two programs.

The state Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth received $4.4 million to train workers for electric power jobs.

Northern Michigan University received money to develop training for entry-level technicians in the electric power industry -- about 40 slots annually.

From The Detroit News: http://detnews.com/article/20100409/AUTO01/4090333/1148/auto01/Energy-Department-vows-quick-approval-for-loans-to-help-automakers-retool#ixzz0keDJ6bRc

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