Dems: GOP clean energy report misleads

Three senior Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee defended a clean-energy grant program Wednesday, saying Republicans used misleading figures in a report earlier this month to slam the initiative.

The Democrats said the Treasury Department’s 1603 program — named after the section of the stimulus act that authorized it — helped leverage billions of dollars in investments for domestic firms and added thousands more jobs than a report by committee Republicans indicated.

“Your report misrepresents the results of a successful Recovery Act program. … We hope this report is not a harbinger of the Committee’s approach to renewable energy issues in the new Congress,” committee ranking member Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), and subcommittee ranking members Reps. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) and Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) wrote to Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.).

The 1603 program provides cash grants for up to 30 percent of the cost of renewable energy projects that meet certain criteria. The department started offering the cash grants in lieu of tax credits in the 2009 federal stimulus because tax equity markets had bottomed out.

The lawmakers said the program had brought in $43 billion in private investment as of July 2012, citing the Treasury Department.

But Republicans criticized the program because a quarter of the funds went to subsidiaries of firms headquartered abroad. The GOP report also said the program added only about 5,000 permanent operation and maintenance jobs each year.

“With these grants, foreign companies appear to have unduly benefitted from a program ostensibly aimed at stimulating the U.S. economy, growing American businesses, and creating U.S. jobs,” the Republican report said.

The Democrats said the GOP’s numbers fail to tell the whole story.

“We are surprised by this criticism,” the lawmakers said of Republican complaints that the program benefited foreign companies. “You have raised no concerns about the extent to which foreign oil companies like Shell and BP benefit from other U.S. tax subsidies.”

They said Republicans also left out construction, installation and manufacturing jobs from the 1603 program, which accounted for between 52,000 and 75,000 jobs per year.

They said applying the same approach to the potential Keystone XL oil sands pipeline would yield 20 permanent, full-time jobs. They noted, however, that Republicans — and some supportive Democrats — often estimate that project will add about 100,000 jobs.

“That estimate includes not only construction and manufacturing jobs, but even ‘spin-off’ jobs assumed to be created by spending associated with the project, such as manicurists, librarians, and bartenders,” the Democrats said.