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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Stimulating Foreign Economies

Air Date: Week of

Rob Gramlich (Courtesy of Rob Gramlich)

Is the economic stimulus package creating more jobs here in America or abroad? Host Jeff Young asks Rob Gramlich of the American Wind Energy Association to follow the money in the rapidly growing wind power industry.


YOUNG: It’s Living on Earth, I’m Jeff Young. The Obama Administration is betting big on clean energy to generate American jobs, putting more than a billion dollars of economic stimulus cash toward renewable energy projects. But, a proposed wind farm that would put Chinese-made turbines in Texas has some seeing red over green jobs. The joint venture by Chinese and US companies will reportedly seek stimulus act funding to help with the financing. Robert Borosage, with the liberal group Campaign for America’s Future, says that’s not where stimulus money should be going.

BOROSAGE: And the problem was of the 2300 jobs they were going to produce, about 2000 of them were going to be in China where they were going to manufacture the windmills for this wind-farm, and we certainly shouldn’t be willy-nilly subsidizing wind-mills in China which does have an industrial policy around these things because we don’t have one. The clear thing is you need to have a strategy that says we’re going to commit to making certain that America is part of this manufacturing future and to do that we’re going to use a comprehensive industrial policy that will make certain that we help stimulate manufacturing here.

YOUNG: Borosage agrees with New York Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer, who’s urging the Department of Energy to deny the request for stimulus money. The Energy department says its hands are tied; the stimulus act doesn’t give much leeway on such decisions. Caught in the middle of this dust up is the American Wind Energy Association, which represents wind power companies in Washington. Wind Energy Association Vice president Rob Gramlich says the proposed Texas project is not indicative of what’s happening in his rapidly growing industry.

GRAMLICH: Well, that’s an announced proposal to develop a future wind project with a company that has plans to manufacture turbines, but it’s not really representative of all the projects that have already gone up this year, in fact, and that are ready to be deployed. Again, we’ve got a lot of turbines that are going up right now – about five percent of the content comes from China, and the trend is actually towards more US manufacturing.

YOUNG: Mmhmm, but what about this Texas wind farm – is senator Schumer right here, that we should say “no” to that request?

Rob Gramlich (Courtesy of Rob Gramlich)

GRAMLICH: Well, we want the jobs here and we are getting most of the jobs here. I think the intent is to put people to work putting up projects and that’s what we’re doing now. Every project uses some capital equipment, and that capital equipment, if you want shovel-ready projects you kind of have to use what’s available. Now, that project is not one that’s been deployed this year, and again it’s not one that’s really ready to go right away. So, it’s really not indicative of what’s happening with Recovery Act funding for renewable energy.

YOUNG: Okay, so let’s talk about the ones that have been already awarded and are already out there. An investigative reporting workshop at American University looked into the figures – money that had gone out under the Stimulus Act to clean energy via clean energy grants – and found that of the roughly one billion dollars in grants, as of first of the September, 84 percent, about 849 million dollars had gone to what they called foreign wind companies, mostly in Europe.

GRAMLICH: Well, they’re confusing, unfortunately, foreign ownership with foreign jobs. 100 percent of those projects are being constructed here in the US, and will be operated here, and will be providing energy here in the US. There are sometimes foreign companies who are investing, and in fact it’s a way for the US government to leverage investment from both US banks and foreign banks to put in capital into this economy. The projects are here in the US, the jobs are here in the US to put these projects up and operate them. Then, as for the manufacturing, just over 50 percent of the content is American, domestically produced, and the trend is strongly in the direction of more US manufacturing.

YOUNG: Well, give us a report card. Overall, how is the Stimulus Act doing in terms of generating wind projects that are putting Americans to work?

GRAMLICH: The Recovery Act for the wind industry has been a huge success. We’ve had 15 projects that are moving forward this year that likely would not have otherwise. The one billion dollars that have been issued have leveraged about two point four additional billion dollars of private capital. And these projects are quite successful.

YOUNG: And how many jobs associated with those projects? Do we know?

GRAMLICH: Well, we have 85,000 people working in the wind industry, and that was a 2008 number, and again, we’re going to come close to our 2008 number of deployments. So, 85,000 is close, but the challenge really is that while development and project installations are very good due to the Recovery Act. The manufacturing actually has not yet picked up, and the reason is manufacturing is building turbines today before the 2010-11-12 markets. And those markets are still very uncertain.

YOUNG: Rob Gramlich, a senior vice president with the American Wind Energy Association. Thanks a lot.

GRAMLICH: Okay, thank you very much, Jeff.

YOUNG: So what do you think? Visit the Living on Earth Facebook page under groups and let us know!



American Wind Energy Association

To read Senator Schumer’s letter, click here

To learn more about the Campaign for America’s Future, click here


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