Foreign Energy Firms Reap Stimulus Windfall

 

Four U.S. Senators are calling on the Obama administration to suspend a federal grant program that has paid out more than $1 billion in stimulus funds to foreign manufacturers. U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), Bob Casey (D-PA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Jon Tester (D-MT) urged the Obama administration to suspend the program indefinitely until the law can be fixed so that funds only flow to projects that will create jobs in the United States.

The senators also proposed new legislation to require that aid flow only to clean-energy projects that rely on materials manufactured in the United States and create the bulk of their jobs here at home, rather than overseas. If approved, the legislation would stop payments to projects like a controversial wind farm in West Texas that is on the verge of receiving $450 million in stimulus funds even though most of the jobs created by it will be in China.

Administration officials said they do not have the authority to prevent that payment. If the aid goes through, it would be just the latest example of a larger trend, according to an independent report conducted last month. The Investigating Reporting Workshop found that since September 1, 2009, 79 percent of the $2 billion in grants doled out by the clean-energy program in the stimulus went to foreign wind companies.

“Stimulus money should be targeted at creating jobs here at home, not in China,” said IAM President Tom Buffenbarger. “We commend Senator Schumer and his colleagues for providing much-needed legislation which will lead to closing the door on projects like those that led to the Texas wind farm fiasco.”

The IAM has been an outspoken advocate for stronger “Buy American” language in projects funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which authorizes millions in stimulus funds for renewable energy projects.

“The absence of a strong domestic sourcing requirement for all clean-energy programs in the stimulus is indicative of how government procurement in general and stimulus money in particular fails to fully utilize taxpayer funds to create manufacturing jobs in the U.S.,” said IAM Trade and Globalization Director Owen Herrnstadt in a recent report . “The result is that one of the largest opportunities to support U.S. manufacturing workers – the domestic production of equipment, including tools, used in conjunction with the Recovery Act – has been lost.”