Web Date: December 7, 2009
Dow Corning Lobbies For Green Jobs
Dow Corning CEO Stephanie A. Burns was in Washington, D.C., last week to lobby for policies that would help other firms do what her firm is doing: create jobs in the alternative energy sector.
Burns was one of about 130 businesspeople, economists, and politicians invited to the White House Jobs Summit on Thursday, Dec. 3. There she held up Dow Corning's business in making polysilicon for solar cells as an example of successfully creating so-called green jobs.
Through its Hemlock Semiconductor joint venture in Hemlock, Mich., Dow Corning produces high-purity polysilicon for semiconductor wafers and, increasingly, photovoltaic cells. The company has invested $5 billion over the past five years to expand these operations in Michigan and build new ones in Tennessee. In the process, Burns said, it has created about 1,500 jobs.
In a briefing for reporters, Burns described the summit as a three-and-a-half hour event made up of a general session and breakouts. Burns's breakout session on green jobs and the innovation agenda was moderated by Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Carol Browner, assistant to the President for energy and climate change. President Obama attended the breakout's final 20 minutes.
Burns said she told attendees that the U.S. isn't capturing the photovoltaic industry's full potential. "Green jobs are real," she told reporters. "But what is frustrating to us is that our raw material gets shipped offshore and other countries convert it into wafers and modules. They then come back to the U.S. for installation. Our goal is to have that value chain and those manufacturing jobs in the U.S."
U.S. companies in the alternative energy business may be eligible for an advanced energy manufacturing tax credit. To encourage more U.S. manufacturing, Burns proposed at the summit that the credit's $2.3 billion cap be doubled or removed altogether. She also proposed that the Treasury Department expand a program to help alternative or renewable energy companies that are just getting started. Because such firms don't yet have profits to tax, they can't benefit from the manufacturing tax credit.
Like several other big chemical companies, Dow Corning favors climate-change legislation that will put a price on carbon dioxide emissions. "As we look forward, we will have a price on carbon," Burns said, "and that price on carbon will mean that renewables will be much more competitive."
Until then, though, she favors the continuation of state and federal subsidies that encourage the installation of solar energy equipment on residential and commercial buildings.
"We're proposing collaboration across the value chain and with government and academic labs to drive down costs," she said. "We need a much more focused effort, and eventually this industry will stand on its own without subsidies."
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