Last week we had the fortunate timing of blogging about the value of good home insulation on the same day that President Obama renewed his emphasis on this important but often overlooked energy saving measure when he called on Congress to pass a law that would give rebates to consumers who invested in insulation or other efficient energy equipment.
The announcement came with one of the most memorable sound bytes of the Obama Presidency to date: “It’s hard to import windows from China,” the President said, touting the benefits of the rebates in not just saving consumers on their energy bills but also creating jobs here at home.
Unfortunately, it was not just a sound byte, but also an opening for critics to take a look at our national energy policy and ask just how well it has worked to create domestic jobs in the energy sector. While we applaud any program that will boost domestic production of windows, water heaters and the like, we have to wonder if HomeStar is a bit of a red herring, used to distract attention from all the other areas of the energy sector where business is moving overseas.
–Wind turbines. As the U.S. derives growing amounts of its power supply from wind, a disturbingly large number of the wind turbines we use are made in China. A large portion of stimulus funds from last year’s Recovery Act have gone toward building wind farms, but investigations have found the vast majority of wind turbines are made in China.
–Solar panels. The New York Times reports that one single Chinese solar panel maker captured nearly a third of the California market last year, while collectively, Chinese solar panel makers more than doubled their share of the California market over the course of 2009. As the American solar business grew, so too grew China’s stake in it.
–Oil. America’s dependence on foreign oil – in 2008 we imported 57% of all the petroleum we consumed — is a longstanding problem, that is arguably so entrenched that it would take a long time to reverse, even with the best intentions. But even judging on the basis of good intentions, there has been little action to support the domestic oil industry. Over the past year, CEA has tracked a pattern of roadblocks, red tape and unnecessary delays that have blocked some promising and environmentally responsible drilling and exploration projects from getting off the ground. Fewer acres were leased for on- and offshore drilling last year than in any previous year.
Oh, and let’s not forget —
–Windows. This little exercise got us curious about the claim that it’s hard to import windows from China. We’re not yet sure if windows are a major export for China, but it wasn’t hard to find some Chinese windows available for export. It should come as no surprise that a global exporter as large as China would find a way to safely export breakable glass. As long as we here in the U.S. discuss the very serious matter of international trade on such a simplistic level (“of course, you wouldn’t ship glass all the way from China”) we’re bound to adopt feel-good policies over those that really make a difference.