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Strong winds blow in fresh controversy over US jobs

Among the many promises President Obama made on taking office in January 2009 was one to create some five million jobs in the US renewables industry over a decade. But more than a year on, a new report claims those plans may be on hold with little or no actual movement on the jobs front. Worse, it claims many of the jobs may actually go overseas. ‘Not so’, says the American Wind Energy Association. So what is going on? PES takes an in-depth look at the state of the industry and examines the ongoing controversy…

Part of the problem has been that despite all the talk of green jobs, the overwhelming majority of stimulus money spent on wind power recently has gone to foreign companies. That, at any rate, is according to a new report by the Investigative Reporting Workshop at the American University’s School of Communication in Washington DC. Almost $2bn from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was spent on wind power, funding the creation of enough new wind farms to power 2.4m homes over the past 12 months but the comprehensive study found that nearly 80 per cent of that cash had gone to foreign manufacturers of wind turbines.

“Most of the jobs are going overseas,” said Russ Choma at the Investigative Reporting Workshop. He analyzed which foreign firms had accepted the most stimulus money. “According to our estimates, about 6,000 jobs have been created overseas, and maybe a couple of hundred have been created in the US.” Last year’s stimulus bill allocated billions of dollars to the clean-energy sector with President Obama continuing to set high expectations for green-job creation in his recent State of the Union address, but administration officials admit that they are nowhere near that pace. Not long ago government economists released their first tally of clean-energy jobs created or saved by the stimulus – it was a mere 52,000. Several varying factors could have accounted for the slow start, some linked to weakness in the overall economy.


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