Your Taxpayer Money Creating Clean Energy Jobs in...Japan?

05/29/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • James P. Hoffa General President, International Brotherhood of Teamsters

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. government is sending $1.8 billion in stimulus money to overseas wind energy companies. Taxpayers ought to be furious at this revelation -- I certainly am.

That money should be spent to create good jobs in America. I don't care what excuse the Chamber of Commerce comes up with. It's just wrong to spend U.S. tax dollars on clean energy technology from companies in Japan, Denmark and Germany.

Don't get me wrong. My union strongly supports government help for renewable energy projects. We need to restore America's economic leadership, and we can do it by investing in clean energy technology at home. Wind turbines are an ideal technology to promote because they require hundreds of skilled workers to manufacture. There is a big opportunity for the creation of thousands of good jobs -- right here at home.

But China, Denmark and Spain are eating our lunch when it comes to manufacturing wind turbines. A study by the Pew Charitable Trusts shows that China has leapfrogged ahead of the United States in green technology investment. In 2004, China had spent only $2.5 billion on renewable energy technologies. Last year, China spent $34.6 billion -- almost twice what the U.S. spent.

Sending money to overseas wind energy companies is like sending money to Soviet aerospace companies after Sputnik was launched.

The Investigative Reporting Workshop recently examined Energy Department data and found that 79 percent of $2 billion in federal grants to support the renewable energy industry went to foreign-owned companies. That's right -- a stimulus program to create clean energy jobs in America is creating them in foreign countries.

The biggest renewable energy grant, $178 million, went to a bankrupt Australian company for building a wind farm using turbines made by a Japanese company. But that's nothing compared to what a Chinese-U.S. consortium wants for a wind farm in Texas: $450 million in federal grant money.

There are several infuriating aspects to this deal. One is that the project is estimated to create 3,000 jobs in Shenyang, China, where the turbines will be built. Another 300 jobs - temporary construction jobs -- will be created by Texas-based Cielo Wind Power. The project will create a grand total of 30 permanent jobs in the U.S.

Secondly, the consortium is made up of a private equity firm called U.S. Renewable Energy Group. I'm hard pressed to understand why American taxpayers should funnel money to a private investment firm so that 3,000 people can get jobs in Shenyang, China.

There's a reason China is emerging as a world leader in renewable energy technology and the United States isn't. It's because China finds ways to protect and nurture emerging industries and the U.S. doesn't.

China passed a stimulus bill that includes $7 billion in funds for wind energy. Foreign wind-energy companies complain they're being shut out of the bidding. That's because the Chinese set rules that favor home-grown companies. And that's exactly what we should be doing, instead of whining about "protectionism" while we shovel money at Chinese enterprises.

Four U.S. senators are trying to change this misguided policy. They've sponsored a bill that fixes the law so that taxpayer dollars are only spent on projects that create jobs here. The bill is sponsored by four Democrats: Chuck Schumer of New York, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Jon Tester of Montana.

Yesterday would not have been too soon for Congress to pass this legislation.