Four Democratic senators entered into the clean energy vs. jobs fray, charging that too much federal stimulus money for wind energy projects is going to foreign suppliers and creating jobs abroad instead of in the U.S.
The administration and the domestic wind energy industry immediately rejected the lawmakers' charges, as the political pressure to reduce unemployment continued to fuel the economic debate in Washington.
Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, joined by Sens. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Jon Tester of Montana complained in a letter to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner that three-fourths of the $2 billion in stimulus funds spent on wind-energy projects had gone to foreign companies. They urged the administration to add a Buy-American requirement to future projects in the private sector as well as in government projects, as currently required.
The American Wind Energy Association, an industry group, said that the senators had their facts wrong. The group claimed that more than half of the first $1 billion in federal funds spent on wind projects went to American-based suppliers.
Charges by the lawmakers that wind turbines for one project in Texas headed by Cielo Wind Power of Austin would be built in China were rejected by a project spokesman quoted in the Washington Post. Some 70% of the material for the turbines, including the steel, would be supplied by American producers, the spokesman said.
The Department of Energy also rejected the senators' claims. The DOE pointed out that Gamesa, a Spanish manufacturer of turbines, was building the equipment for an Illinois projected jump-started by stimulus funds in an abandoned U.S. Steel factory in Pennsylvania. Another Spanish supplier, Iberdrola, has upped its investment in U.S. manufacturing capacity as a result of stimulus orders, the government agency said, because suppliers prefer to build the equipment near where it will be used.
But Scott Paul, executive director for the American Alliance for Manufacturing, said in a blog on Huffington Post that U.S. entrepreneurs were being passed over for DOE loan guarantees in favor of aid to large manufacturers who continue to source much of their equipment abroad.
Imagine that, wrote Paul, who welcomed the intervention by the senators. U.S. companies are denied federal assistance to build new factories in the Midwest, eliminating the opportunity for hundreds of skilled workers to get back on the job, while multinational companies are granted hundreds of millions of dollars to import parts from Asia and Europe.
AWEA said, however, that halting the stimulus grants now would put 50,000 Americans out of work.