Oil isn’t the only domestic industry at risk of losing out to overseas competitors: It seems that a lot of federal government money allocated for renewable energy sources, like wind, has blown over to China, Spain and other foreign shores.
Of course, wind cannot be imported and exported like oil. It just blows where it will. But that has not stopped the U.S. from giving substantial funds for wind power plant projects to foreign businesses. A group of enterprising journalism students recently followed the money and found that the majority of clean energy grants the U.S. has issued in recent months have gone to companies in Spain, China and elsewhere that manufacture wind turbines or are building power plants in the U.S. What’s worse, many of these funds were U.S. stimulus dollars, allocated under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and intended specifically to revive the American economy and create more jobs.
How does U.S. money allocated for American industry drift offshore so quickly? The short answer is that some other countries are further along in the development of wind power and the like. When the U.S. got serious about building up this new power industry, it partnered with foreign businesses that had the expertise it needed.
It sounds logical, to a point. The problem is, it’s the same sort of logic that is often offered to explain the country’s growing dependence on foreign oil. We’d prefer to tap existing fields far from home, rather than drill our own and invest in our future here at home. It comes down to a failure to adequately use our own natural resources, including not just what comes out of the ground, but all of the people who work to produce it. Whether you’re talking about oil or wind, the labor needed to develop all this power is a vital natural resource. At a time when so many American jobs are needed, this astonishing spending of U.S. stimulus funds to foreign wind power companies has struck a nerve.
Some lawmakers are now trying to block a major wind power project in Texas that is a joint venture between a U.S. company and a Chinese company, out of fears the investment will create more jobs in China than the U.S. “The project should not receive a dime of stimulus funds unless it relies on U.S.-manufactured products,” Senator Charles Schumer said recently, in calling on the government to block funds for the Texas project. That should go without saying. Hopefully this wind scandal will serve to remind us all of the folly of overlooking our own resources.