Wind energy industry slams Florida congressman

By | 10.12.11 | 2:22 pm

Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Ocala (Pic via stearns.house.gov)

The wind power industry is lashing out at Florida Republican Cliff Stearns over comments the Ocala congressman made about the country’s competitiveness with China when it comes to renewable energy manufacturing. In a recent interview with NPR, Stearns said that U.S. “can’t compete with China to make solar panels and wind turbines,” so the country should instead invest in other developing technologies.

Stearns clarified his remarks in a follow-up statement, saying that the U.S. can’t compete with China’s “low labor costs, its access to raw materials, its lack of environmental and safety regulations in manufacturing, and the burdensome regulations imposed by the Obama Administration.”

“China and developing countries have clear advantages in manufacturing certain products — how many TVs, computers or T-shirts are made in the United States?” said Stearns. “Just like solar panels, they’re made overseas because it’s more economical — and making solar power and other renewables more economical will allow them to flourish in our nation.”

President Obama addressed Stearns’ remarks during an Oct. 6 press conference, without explicitly mentioning the congressman by name:

I heard there was a Republican member of Congress who’s engaging in oversight on this, and despite the fact that all of them in the past have been supportive of this loan guarantee program, he concluded, “You know what? We can’t compete against China when it comes to solar energy.” Well, you know what? I don’t buy that.

The American Wind Energy Association, a self-described “lobbying force for wind development and voice for wind manufacturers in the United States,” is also speaking out against Stearns’ comments. Association President Denise Bode told The Hill that Stearns “misunderstands that wind energy is an American manufacturing success story” and has been “one of the fastest-growing U.S. manufacturing sectors” during the recession.

Much of the success of wind energy, however, is dependent upon policies on both the federal and state levels. For wind turbine manufacturing to even come close to rivaling China, it must get some help from lawmakers like Stearns, who doesn’t seem likely to budge.

As the chair of an energy and commerce subcommittee, Stearns is currently hosting a series of hearings centered on failed solar-power start-up Solyndra, which went bankrupt last month despite receiving $535 million in taxpayer-funded loan guarantees from the Obama administration.

Though Stearns has claimed he doesn’t believe in federal spending for any industry, Stearns himself welcomed a federally funded green jobs effort in his own district last year.

Follow Virginia Chamlee on Twitter


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