Wind industry warns Republicans against 'false statements' on stimulus

GOP ads bashing Democratic votes for the stimulus have been a campaign staple. Several spots claim a grant program to boost U.S. construction of wind farms and other renewable projects has been a boon to suppliers overseas, especially China.

“Is Baron Hill running for Congress in Indiana, or China?” states a National Republican Congressional Committee ad this month attacking the vulnerable Indiana Democrat. “Hill is creating massive new debt here, while he is creating renewable energy jobs over there. Baron Hill: For Indiana, or China?”

Ads against several other vulnerable Democrats make similar claims.

AWEA — the industry’s main trade group — is defending the grant program. It enables renewable energy project developers to access federal grants in lieu of traditional tax credit financing, which has become much less attractive during the economic downturn.

The program “has been one of the most effective public policies in existence for saving American jobs instead of surrendering them all to China,” states AWEA CEO Denise Bode in the letter to the Senate and House political committees. The letter cites a Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory study that found the program supported enough projects to save tens of thousands of jobs.

The stimulus grant program — contained in Section 1603 of the bill — has also faced criticism from Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and several other Senate Democrats, who say it should only support power generation projects that use U.S.-manufactured components.

But backers of the program note it funds U.S power generation projects that employ people here to build and operate them — even if some components are made by foreign companies and built overseas.

And AWEA has said a significant percentage of the components in stimulus-funded power projects are also manufactured here. “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,” the letter states.

The letter was sent to Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), heads of the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and Reps. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), who lead the House political committees.