Stimulating Wind Energy and Jobs in the U.S.

March 4, 2010 - 9:54am -- Anonymous

Legislation has been introduced in the U.S. Senate that would restrict stimulus funding for wind energy grants to only go to projects that do not benefit foreign companies in any way. Further, Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York and other senators have asked the administration and Treasury to immediately suspend all payments to such projects.

The issue first surfaced with criticism of the purchase of chinese wind turbines for a large west Texas project being developed by U.S. Renewable Energy Group that had received stimulus grants. Recently, a study by the Investigative Reporting Workshop reported that the majority of $2 billion in clean-energy grants went to foreign wind companies.

This is a classic chicken and egg dilemma—how do we stimulate a clean energy economy in the United States when the global clean energy industry is already dominated by foreign companies? Do we turn our backs on the rest of the world? Or, do we invite foreign companies to invest in the U.S. economy? Should we pass laws demanding that U.S. companies create a clean energy economy from scratch?

“What these programs are doing is allowing companies all over the world to make investments in the United States,” remarked U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu. “This is exactly what we want to be doing.”

What would happen if Ford and General Motors were asked to stop using foreign components in U.S. automobile industry? What would happen if Toyota and Honda were restricted from operating manufacturing and assembly plants in the U.S.? 

“Rather than adopt policies that will kill American jobs, Congress should enact policies that will create jobs by encouraging manufacturers to invest in U.S. plants.” states Denise Bode, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association. “That means passing a Renewable Electricity Standard now.”

All the right questions are being asked about how to build a clean energy future and realize a positive economic impact, although politicans, Wall Street, and Main Street may differ on the answers. At Windustry we raise the question: Does this help to empower communities to develop and own wind energy as an environmentally sustainable asset? 

Let's keeping asking the right questions, so we can continue to develop policies and programs that lead to solutions. Putting programs on hold, however, seems more of a denial that the questions should be asked and that democratic debate can lead to good solutions.