JEFFERSON CITY — Vice President Joe Biden announced $4 billion in federal grants for smart grid technology during a Thursday afternoon visit to a Jefferson City plant that produces electric transformers.
Biden said that smart grid technology, which uses renewable energy forms such as wind power, would create jobs, decrease U.S. dependence on foreign oil and help stimulate the economy by providing new investment opportunities.
Funding includes $3.4 billion for developing smart grid technology and $650 million for storage and monitoring.
Biden also used his visit to tout the importance of federal stimulus funds in the construction of a $300 million wind farm in DeKalb County. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act includes certain tax credits for wind energy technology.
"Lost Creek Wind Farm, which was ready to put on hold its projects, was able, through this Recovery Act, to get the money to make this project happen," Biden said. "We tried to do our part."
Biden and Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke spoke at the ABB manufacturing plant, which will supply 100 electric transformers for the wind farm. GE Energy will supply 100 of the facility's wind turbines, and Springfield-based Associated Electric Cooperative Inc. will purchase the energy.
Biden said federal stimulus money is instrumental in funding Missouri wind farms and nationwide smart grid technology, thus spurring economic growth in the state.
"This new economy isn't going to be built by Wall Street investors; it's going to be built by you, like every single, solitary era in our history," he said.
The vice president's speech focused just as much on the importance of blue-collar workers and national optimism as on new renewable energy.
Biden referenced growing up in Scranton, Pa., where he observed his father's positive outlook even after he lost his job and left the state.
"My dad never doubted for a second that things would come back," he said. "When your parents said, 'Look, you can do anything you want to do as long as you work hard,' ... we believed it, and we did it. But how many parents feel the certainty of being able to say that to their kids right now?"
ABB employee LaTricia Jacques said she hopes the development of smart grid technology could lead to the rehiring of ABB workers who were laid off because of the state of the economy.
"We had, I believe, three layoffs, and things are still really unstable," Jacques said after Biden's speech on Thursday.
"Rumors are there may be another layoff coming soon," she added.
Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan said there's no downside to creating jobs in Jefferson City.
"If we've got something that's going to turn into real results and real jobs, I think that's what everyone is looking for in the stimulus money," she said.
State Sen. Victor Callahan, D-Jackson County, who also attended Thursday's event, said using taxpayer money to fund projects under the federal stimulus package is the same as using taxpayer funds for defense, highways and city parks.
"A lot of people are critical of the Recovery Act, but ask the workers here, who are probably going to directly benefit from those grants," he said.
Biden is scheduled to address college affordability at a forum in St. Louis on Friday.