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Wind Industry Pushes Back Against Report of Misleading Stimulus Claims

Wind industry officials are working overtime to counter a story published yesterday by American University’s Investigative Reporting Workshop that finds many of the wind farms that received stimulus money were built during the Bush administration or earlier, potentially undercutting the Obama administration’s claims that it created thousands of new jobs in the industry.

The Investigative Reporting Workshop story finds:

Out of 70 major wind farms that received the $4.4 billion in federal energy grants through the stimulus program, public records show that 11, which received a total of $600 million, had erected their wind towers during the Bush administration. And a total of 19 wind farms, which received $1.3 billion, were built before any of the stimulus money was distributed.

Yet all the jobs at these wind farms are counted in the administration’s figures for jobs created by the stimulus.

The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), the wind industry’s trade group, responded to the story last night, arguing that wind projects were stalling in 2008 and the Obama administration ensured that the industry could continue to operate.

In late 2008, wind project developers were laying off workers and stopping projects in mid-construction. The 1603 tax credit program for renewable energy allowed work to resume on these more-than-shovel-ready projects and saved 40,000 American jobs. Due to the program, 2009 was an all-time record year for new wind construction in the United States, and wind energy remained a bright spot in the American economy despite the recession.

AWEA is also pushing back against a series of Republican television ads arguing that the Obama administration’s renewable energy tax credits have sent American jobs to China. In an Oct. 22 letter to the heads of the Democratic and Republican campaign and congressional committees, AWEA CEO Denise Bode said:

One policy of particular importance is the renewable energy tax credit, the 1603 program, a continuation and modification of a policy started in 1992 that has been supported on a bipartisan basis. Some advertisements are making clearly false statements about the 1603 program. Statements that the 1603 program sent jobs to China when all projects receiving tax credits under the program were built in the US is clearly false. This program is a great example of “insourcing” jobs to the United States by leveraging both foreign and domestic investment. It is the opposite of outsourcing. Accordingly, we urge you to use your influence to praise one the most successful programs to defend American jobs and prevent the surrender of jobs to other countries like China, and not encourage any candidates to criticize this program in misleading campaign ads.

Here’s the full text of the letter:

October 22, 2010

The Honorable John Cornyn The Honorable Bob Menendez

Chairman Chairman

National Republican Senatorial Committee Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee

425 2nd Street NE 120 Maryland Avenue NE

Washington, DC 20002 Washington, DC 20002

The Honorable Pete Sessions The Honorable Chris Van Hollen

Chairman Chairman

National Republican Congressional Committee Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee

320 First Street SE 430 S. Capitol Street SE

Washington, DC 20003 Washington, D.C. 20003

Dear Chairmen Cornyn, Menendez, Sessions and Van Hollen:

A number of politically motivated television advertisements are being aired across the country by candidates and party committees that falsely attack policies that are critical to the successful development of renewable energy and diversification of American’s energy sources and we ask that the party committees, which you lead, correct the record and that you refuse to support false statements about renewable energy policies in political advertisements.

One policy of particular importance is the renewable energy tax credit, the 1603 program, a continuation and modification of a policy started in 1992 that has been supported on a bipartisan basis. Some advertisements are making clearly false statements about the 1603 program. Statements that the 1603 program sent jobs to China when all projects receiving tax credits under the program were built in the US is clearly false. This program is a great example of “insourcing” jobs to the United States by leveraging both foreign and domestic investment. It is the opposite of outsourcing. Accordingly, we urge you to use your influence to praise one the most successful programs to defend American jobs and prevent the surrender of jobs to other countries like China, and not encourage any candidates to criticize this program in misleading campaign ads.

In general, the 2,500 members of the American Wind Energy Association and the 85,000 Americans employed in the U.S. wind energy industry, have appreciated the recent bi-partisan efforts of Members of the House of Representatives and Senate to promote the diversification of America’s energy sources and the development of renewable energy.

Renewable energy tax credits, the 1603 program, is one of the important polices under attack in these partisan political advertisements. As the representative for the 85,000 people working in the American wind industry, we can say unequivocally that this tax credit has been one of the most effective public policies in existence for saving American jobs instead of surrendering them all to China.

At a time when the recession threatened at least 40,000 American wind construction, manufacturing and operations jobs, the 1603 tax credit program restarted stalled projects and saved all 40,000 wind jobs at risk. This year, a study by Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory (LBNL) found that the 1603 tax credit supported enough current projects to save over 50,000 American jobs. The 1603 program actually led to a record-breaking year of 10,000 megawatts (MW) of new wind in 2009, compared to the 4,000 MW feared prior to the implementation of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Today, over 150 small and large wind projects have received the 1603 tax credit, and these investments have led to millions in local taxes for towns and cities, as well as lease payments for landowners willing to host wind farm facilities.

During the outset of the recession and prior to the establishment of 1603, project development and financing for wind farms was nearly impossible to obtain and costly. Many wind projects in mid-development could not complete financing. As a result, wind investment came to a sudden halt, with some projects stopping mid-construction; laying off construction workers and leaving wind towers and blades on the ground.

Every job saved under 1603 was an American job and 100% of projects that receive investment tax credits through 1603 are built in the U.S. as required by law . The program also supports America’s growing wind manufacturing and supply chain industries. As a result of 1603 and other policies over 400 American manufacturing facilities now produce wind components. Contrary to recent campaign ads, these manufacturing plants, projects and policies support American workers.

In the interest of all Americans, we ask that each of you use your influence to correct the record, get these misleading campaign advertisements off the air, and defend American jobs.

Sincerely,

Denise Bode

CEO, American Wind Energy Association

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