H. JOSEF HEBERT
WASHINGTON (AP) -- A Democratic senator is calling on the Obama administration to reject an expected request for federal economic stimulus money as part of a $1.5 billion West Texas wind energy project because he says it will generate Chinese, not American, jobs.
The U.S.-China venture, announced last week, would erect 240 huge Chinese-manufactured wind turbines on 36,000 acres in West Texas, with the Export-Import Bank of China committed to handle most of the financing.
But Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said the project reportedly may also be seeking 30 percent funding from economic stimulus grants from the Energy Department -- funds he said would used to buy turbines and other components made in a Chinese plant.
"The idea that stimulus funds would be used to create jobs overseas is quite troubling," Schumer wrote in a letter to be sent Thursday to Energy Secretary Steven Chu. The senator urged Chu to reject any request for funds from the Texas project.
"The purpose of the (stimulus program) was to jump start the economy to create and save jobs -- American jobs," the senator wrote. "Yet the Texas wind farm project would create an estimated 2,000-3,000 clean energy manufacturing jobs in China. ... American taxpayer dollars should not be used to finance those Chinese jobs."
A draft of the letter was provided late Wednesday to The Associated Press.
The project, announced a week ago, is a joint venture of China's Shenyang Power Group, Cielo Wind Power LP of Austin, Texas, and a private equity firm, U.S. Renewable Energy Group. It would be the largest renewable energy investment made by China in the United States.
Under the agreement, A-Power Energy Generation Systems Ltd. of Shenyang, China, would be the exclusive provider of 240 2.5-megawatt wind turbines for the 600-megawatt wind farm, which would produce enough electricity to serve 180,000 homes.
Project officials could not be immediately reached for comment on the senators' concerns.
In a news release when the project was announced Oct. 29, Ed Cunningham, USREG's managing partner, said the wind farm would "create new high-paying jobs on both sides of the Pacific."
Cappy McGarr, the group's managing partner, said that in addition to the Chinese financing, the project expected to tap U.S. stimulus money earmarked for development of jobs in the renewable energy industry.
Schumer said the federal stimulus funding should be provide only for wind projects where major components, including wind turbines, are manufactured in the United States.
Chu frequently has expressed concern that China and European countries have overtaken the United States in the commercial development and production of clean energy technologies, even in some cases where the technologies originally were developed in the United States.
While turbine production has been dominated by largely European manufacturers, Schumer maintained that U.S. plants are capable of making the products. "U.S. wind farms financed with stimulus money should be buying American-built turbines and parts," maintained Schumer.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.