Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Is our stimulus plan goosing the Spanish and Chinese economies?

That's probably an oversimplification and the Chinese have been offering up their own aggressive stimulus packages, but I was surprised to read that the majority of spending for green energy projects is going to overseas manufacturers.

When I think about it logically, I know the Chinese dominate the global solar panel market and the Europeans and Chinese have been very strong in wind power, so it makes sense, but these statistics really jump off the page at me.

"By Mr. Choma’s reckoning, 84 percent of the $1.05 billion in clean-energy grants distributed by the government since Sept. 1 has gone to foreign renewable energy companies — specifically, wind companies. Through its American subsidiary, Iberdrola, a global manufacturer of wind turbines based in Spain, commanded most of that funding: $545 million.

“We broke down some of the numbers and found out that the program funded 11 projects that installed 982 turbines,” Mr. Choma wrote in an e-mail message, “and 695 were built by foreign manufacturers.”

I'm not some protectionist loon -- I think we should buy the best product on the market at the best available price. If that happens to be a Chinese solar panel or Spanish wind turbine, fine.

However, I think it speaks to the problems we face as a country that even when we get behind an effort to generate clean power the best products are often not manufactured domestically. While we will still reap the benefits of clean power, we don't benefit from the original manufacturing of the products. This like deciding to go to sugar cane based ethanol but importing all of our ethanol from Brazil.


1 comment:

Uncas said...

Actually, the way the information is presented is a bit misleading. Many of those turbines mentioned as "foreign" are not manufactured overseas, but here in the United States.

Now that there is a stable level of support in this country more and more investment is pouring in. New manufacturing projects have been announced in the these last few years.

The level of imports in this industry is actually going down and is being replaced by local manufacturing, with a spill-off beneficial effect to companies in the supply chain. A whole new industry in manufacturing and local wind farm development that is creating jobs in the United States.