RENEWABLE ENERGY:

DOE disputes senators' claims of stimulus grants flowing overseas

The Energy Department official overseeing DOE stimulus spending said today that suspending renewable energy grants as urged by Senate Democrats would hurt domestic job creation.

"Halting the program at this point would not be helpful for jobs," Matt Rogers, senior adviser to Energy Secretary Steven Chu, told the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) introduced legislation yesterday that would restrict grants to companies that rely on materials manufactured in the United States and create the bulk of jobs domestically (E&ENews PM, March 3).

Schumer cited a report by the Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University that states 79 percent of the $2 billion in renewable energy grants doled out from the stimulus went to foreign companies, as well as a controversial proposal by a U.S.-China joint venture to apply for $450 million in funding from the stimulus.

But Rogers called the American University report "at best, misleading" and "factually false." It may have kept track of locations of companies' headquarters but failed to identify the location of jobs created, which was in the United States.

If the stimulus funds are suspended, it creates uncertainty and so any projects going forward now will pause and any workers just hired "we will have to lay those people off," Rogers said.

Rogers said DOE has not even seen an application from the proposed China-U.S. joint venture highlighted in the report, which said the project would create hundreds of U.S. construction jobs but thousands of manufacturing jobs in China.

"Until we have a project application, we have nothing to evaluate," Rogers said.

The proposed U.S.-China venture would build a 648-megawatt wind farm in West Texas, generating enough power to light 135,000 homes. The venture is made up of China's Shenyang Power Group, Texas-based Cielo Wind Power and the U.S. Renewable Energy Group.

Rogers added that the United States has a manufacturing shortfall, which is why Congress should expand the $2.3 billion renewable energy manufacturing tax credit, which was oversubscribed 3 to 1.

"We need to manage our supply and demand together," Rogers said.

The U.S. stimulus incentives for manufacturing and development "have created the most attractive market for investment and job program in the world," he added.

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