Harry Reid likes to brag about all the money and jobs he’s bringing to Nevada by “earmarking” alternative energy projects. However, a little research shows that many of the companies receiving government loan guarantees and grants aren’t even based in the United States. One recent example involves the Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project being constructed near Tonopah. In September 2011, the Department of Energy (DOE) issued a $737 million loan guarantee to Tonopah Solar Energy, LLC to develop a 110-megawatt facility on BLM land there. A field of mirrors will generate electrical power, using molten salt as the primary heat transfer and storage medium. Parent company SolarReserve LLC is based in California. So far, so good. But a closer look reveals that its principal partner, ACS Cobra, is based in Spain. It set up a Nevada company for this project called Cobra Thermosolar Plants Inc., but according to the company’s filing with the Secretary of State’s office, all the directors live in Spain.
ACS Cobra – not a Nevada company and not even a U.S. company – was named the general contractor for the project. It did pledge to use some Nevada contractors to work on the job, but why was a foreign company allowed to be the general contractor in the first place? Nevadans pay taxes to the federal government, which then lets foreigners get construction contracts that should go to our own companies! Harry Reid and his cronies in Washington should be
ashamed of themselves.
By the way, SolarReserve proudly announced that the facility will create 45 permanent jobs, which simple math translates into about $16.4 million worth of taxpayer loan guarantee for every permanent job created. Meanwhile, profits from the construction are flowing out of the country.
“I’m happy I’ve done earmarks all my career,” Reid told the press in January of this year, shortly before helping to kill an amendment that would have permanently banned Senate earmarks. Reid’s website proudly lists dozens of alternative energy projects he brought to Nevada at taxpayers’ expense. Thanks to years of earmarking by Reid, these projects have received more than $550 million in taxpayer funds in the form of grants or loan guarantees. However, it’s hard to tell which of the companies getting grants and loans may have foreign ownership. One that does is ENEL North America, which received a $61.5 million grant from the DOE to build geothermal plants in Churchill County. It’s a subsidiary of Enel Green Power, which is based in Italy. Another is Nevada Geothermal, which received a loan guarantee of $79 million and about $66 million in grants in 2010 to develop a plant in Humboldt County. Its parent company is based in Vancouver, British Columbia. As of January, 2012 it was trying to restructure its debt to keep from going under. If it fails, U.S. taxpayers will be on the hook for $145 million, and whatever profits were generated went to Canada.
The DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy has an annual budget of $1.8 billion, and also administers Recovery Act funds totaling $16 billion to support alternative energy projects across the country. In addition, DOE has issued loans and loan guarantees totaling nearly $40 billion, putting our funds at risk for projects that were too risky to get funding from private investors. Reid and other politicians are using taxpayers’ money to earmark projects for their states and curry favor with so-called Progressives concerned about their carbon footprints. While they are picking winners and losers in the private sector, foreign companies are profiting from contracts that should have gone to businesses based in the United States. It’s time for regulations requiring all companies receiving taxpayers’ money from the DOE to buy American and hire American.
Originally published in Nevada Business Magazine: