Report: Foreign turbine makers nab grants
Stimulus grants designed to create wind power jobs are mostly going to foreign manufacturers to build wind farms in the United States, according to a report by the Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University’s School of Communications in Washington.
The Energy Department has doled out more than $2 billion from the 2009 Recovery Act for renewable energy projects, but the study found almost 80 percent of the money went to foreign companies. The wind sector has received the lion’s share of the money, $1.6 billion, 73 percent of which has gone to foreign makers of wind turbines, the report said.
The largest grant so far, $178 million, went to bankrupt Australian investment firm Babcock & Brown that built a Texas wind farm with turbines from a Japanese company. Chinese wind turbine makers have also applied for grants.
The dearth of American companies that can apply for grants and the lack of restrictions on how the money is used have contributed to the disbursement pattern. 'Buy America' provisions in the law mostly apply to government purchases of manufactured goods. Critics say the stimulus bill was designed to create jobs in the United States and the money should be spent building up the wind power industry, but the administration and the American Wind Energy Association argue that the grants were intended to provide long-term incentives rather than simply act as an immediate jobs creator, the report said.
Sen. Charles Schumer told ABC News, which collaborated with the Investigative Reporting Workshop, that the Energy Department should be directing taxpayer money to American firms.
'It is fine that the Chinese make them. But why don't we use the stimulus money to start building up an industry to build them here, that was the very point of the stimulus,' Schumer said. 'No one even imagined, given how strongly the stimulus advertised jobs in America, that this would happen. I am befuddled that it happened and even more befuddled that the Energy Department is not backing off.'
Some temporary jobs are created in the United States for installation of wind power equipment. Meanwhile, U.S. and international companies with wind production plants in the United States have closed facilities or slowed production in the past year. Some of the work has been relocated to China, the workshop said.
The debate last year about 'Buy America' provisions freezing out Canadian companies from government-managed projects drew attention to job losses at U.S. manufacturers that couldn’t get work because they had Canadian suppliers or suffered retaliation at the hands of local and provincial Canadian governments. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other groups complained the restrictions were a form of protectionism that could lead to more retaliation that harms U.S. exports.
The difference with the wind power grants is that there isn’t much of U.S. wind manufacturing base to protect in the first place. ' Eric Kulisch