Claiming that the majority of the Recovery Act green stimulus is going to foreign wind companies, four Democrats have introduced legislation today to require that the grant money only fund clean energy projects relying on parts 100% manufactured in the US and creating the bulk of their jobs domestically and subject to ‘buy American’ provisions, requiring they rely on iron, steel and goods manufactured in the US.
But the remedy proposed by Senators Senators Schumer, Casey, Brown and Tester in the American Renewable Energy Jobs Act actually would hurt American jobs, and slow the development of an American wind sector, because no wind developer could meet the strict requirements of their ‘Buy American’ amendment–the United States simply does not have the manufacturing capacity yet to produce 100% of the turbine parts.
Under the green New Deal of the Recovery Act stimulus funds, an astounding 16 Gigawatts-worth of renewable energy projects has been funded. This will be a huge step forward in bring America back to the forefront of the new renewable energy industry sector. But right now, we do lag a decade behind Europe in wind energy.
Because its legislatures approved Kyoto in 1995, foreign wind companies now have a decade’s start on US wind companies. As a result, most wind projects in the US currently have foreign ownership, with or without the green new deal of the Recovery Act.
However, as Denise Bode, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association has pointed out; 100% of the funds are in lieu of a US tax credit for investment in projects supplied more than 50% by US iron, steel and manufactured parts.
“The truth is, by law, American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grants can only be used to finance projects that are being built in the US,” the AWEA’s Bode said.
The Department of Energy has funded projects to remedy our backwardness. For example, one of the projects funded under the Recovery Act green stimulus is a world-class turbine testing center in South Carolina. Before America can compete internationally it will have to be able to have the capability to test the huge turbines now built in Europe so we can build them safely here.
Energy Secretary Steven Chu has responded that the point was to eventually be able to export components to foreign wind farms, so America can once more lead the world in building renewable energy.
But before manufacturing – and the jobs that come with it – can be established, demand for the product needs to be established, which the orders from the Recovery Act created. The grants provide the precondition to jump start the manufacturing.
Matt Rogers, senior advisor overseeing economic stimulus investments for the Department of Energy also disputed that that the program is not effective in saving or creating US jobs.
As hard hit as any by the recession, the wind sector would have lost half of its jobs without the program, Rogers said in an ABC interview. “Every dollar from the Recovery Act is going to create jobs for American workers here in the United States.”
“Frankly we don’t care where the headquarters are,” Rogers said. “What we don’t want to do is stop a program that’s really working well. The fact is that those jobs are here.”
Image: Octavio Ocampo
Susan Kraemer writes at CleanTechnica, CSP-Today, PV-Insider , SmartGridUpdate and GreenProphet and has been published at Ecoseed, NRDC OnEarth, MatterNetwork, Celsius, EnergyNow and Scientific American. As a former serial entrepreneur in product design she brings an innovator's perspective on inventing a carbon-constrained civilization: If necessity is the mother of invention: solving climate change is the mother of all necessities! As a lover of history and sci fi, she enjoys chronicling the strange future we are creating in these interesting times. Follow Susan @dotcommodity on twitter.