WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Charles Schumer called on the Obama administration on Thursday to block the use of any U.S. economic stimulus funds for a wind farm project in West Texas that would use turbines built in China.
I'm all for investing in clean energy, but we should be investing in the United States, not China, Schumer told reporters. While the project is anticipated to generate as many as 3,000 jobs in Shenyang, China ... its job impact in the United States would be roughly one-tenth that amount.
He complained the $1.5 billion project could get an injection of about $450 million in funds from Washington. That money would come from $787 billion Congress approved this year to help bring the United States out of an economic recession with funds for domestic construction projects and other activities.
When the project was announced last month at a Washington news conference, backers said commercial banks in China were expected to finance the wind farm.
But Walt Hornaday, president of Cielo Wind Power of Austin, Texas, one of the companies involved, said in a statement on Thursday, This project will not take place without the planned benefits of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (the economic stimulus law).
Hornaday said the project would benefit rural communities in Texas as well as U.S. engineers, contractors and suppliers.
Without this incentive, wind projects will wait on the sidelines for energy prices to come back to the levels we saw a few years ago, he added.
Schumer has asked the Department of Energy to refuse funding for the Texas wind farm unless U.S.-made wind turbines were used.
If the agency did not do so, Schumer threatened to take legislative action against economic stimulus funds being used to help foreign manufacturers.
A Department of Energy spokeswoman was not immediately available for comment.
Schumer's initiative came little more than a week before President Barack Obama is scheduled to be in Shanghai and Beijing. His first trip to China aims to improve bilateral relations, including cooperation on ways to reduce carbon pollution blamed for global warming.
The Texas wind farm would have a capacity of 600 megawatts, enough to supply electricity to as many as 180,000 Texas homes. Chinese wind turbine manufacturer A-Power Energy Generation Systems would combine with U.S. Renewable Energy Group, an asset management firm, and Cielo to carry out the project.
(Reporting by Richard Cowan; additional reporting by Leonora Walet in Hong Kong; Editing by Peter Cooney)