Wind Stimulus Initiative Hits Turbulence
Washington D.C. – The war between members of the U.S. Senate and wind energy investors rages on as lawmakers try to suspend government appropriations earmarked for privately operated wind-energy projects. The complaint, raised by the Committee for Energy and Natural Resources, is that investors are funneling an overwhelming percentage of government funding toward Asian manufacturers, rather than using American companies.
With nearly $2 billion already spent on wind farm projects, several senators are leading the charge against stimulus funds that are suspected of being used for manufacturing wind mills in China that will eventually be used in the U.S. The purpose of the wind stimulus project, proposed by the Obama administration in early 2009, was to help expand the United States goal of producing wind generated energy, as well as create jobs across the country. Now, committee members are investigating the exact nature of the spending so far.
According to a report conducted by Investigative Reporting Workshop, 73 percent of the $1.9 billion in stimulus money that has distributed since Sept. 1, 2009 has been invested in foreign companies.
One particular project, a wind farm in west Texas slated to receive $450 million in government funds, has become the focal point of the debate. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), has been outspoken in his skepticism of the project since its inception last year. Schumer claims that US Renewable Energy Group (US-REG), Texas-based Cielo Wind Power and Chinese Shenyang Power Group, all responsible for financing the venture, so far have not relied on U.S. manufacturing. Instead Schumer claims the investment will provide 3,000 jobs for Shenyang and 330 for Americans -300 of those U.S. jobs being temporary.
“It is a no-brainer that stimulus funds should only go to projects that create jobs in the United States rather than overseas,” Schumer’s office said in a statement. “These wind projects have a lot of merit, but the manufacturing should be happening here, not in China.”
In a statement released by US-REG, managing partner Cappy McGarr countered the charges by stating that his company intends to manufacture a minimum of 70 percent of the wind turbines for the $1.5 billion project domestically. McGarr said that it is incorrect to assume that hundreds of additional jobs created aside from the direct construction and operation of the Texas plant would be outside the U.S.
The U.S. Energy Department released a statement saying that they do not support blocking stimulus payments and if projects that use foreign-manufactured turbines are cut off, even temporarily, the result could be immediate layoffs for American workers.
The current American Recovery and Reinvestment Act requires government run and financed stimulus projects to rely on American manufactured goods. Where the bill lacks coverage for protecting American jobs is in regards to privately operated projects, like the US-REG venture, that do not fall under the same guidelines.
Senate Committee members are pushing for new legislation that would require private project venturers to create jobs in the United States if they are taking advantage of federal grants. Under current law, the government has no jurisdiction to intercede by withholding grants even if the companies relying on government incentives perform all of the manufacturing abroad.