It's more than a little disheartening when the chief executive officer of one of America's most storied Fortune 500 corporations is "comfortable" with the fact that his company created a mere 10 jobs with a $25 million grant under President Obama's economic stimulus program in 2010. The CEO in question is Honeywell's David Cote, and the stimulus grant involved came from the Department of Energy to advance Obama's green energy agenda. The funds were to be used by Honeywell's UOP subsidiary to build a biofuels technology demonstration plant in Oahu, Hawaii, supposedly creating 85 construction jobs and 40 permanent positions in each succeeding year.
The Energy Department further envisioned a facility producing biomass fuels "on a commercial scale ... with the potential to create approximately 800 construction jobs and 1,000 permanent jobs, including in biomass production."
The problem now is that it appears to be all but impossible to determine whether those rosy projections will come to pass. An April 2012 news report by Honolulu Civil Beat, a trade publication, quoted James Rekoske, Honeywell UOP's vice president for renewable energy, saying only "about 10 jobs" had been created at that point. (The Energy Department refused to provide Civil Beat with a copy of Honeywell's grant application.)
When asked about the 10 jobs Monday during a shareholders meeting by Justin Danhoff of the National Center for Public Policy Research, Cote would only say that he was "comfortable" with Honeywell's performance to date. Pressed by Danhoff for specifics, Cote refused to provide any. When The Washington Examiner asked a Honeywell spokesman if the first 40 promised permanent jobs had been created, Rekoske responded that "Honeywell's UOP has invested at least $10 million into the project and met all of the technology deliverables of this project to date. The project has created at least 85 jobs during its construction phase as delineated in our project scope."
Note that Rekoske said nothing about the 40 permanent jobs. Instead, he repeated to this newspaper most of what he told the Civil Beat last year: "Once successfully proven, a commercial-scale facility using the same technology could create as many as 800 new construction jobs and 1,000 new jobs in biomass production and refinery operations." The change from 2012 to 2013 is the increase in jobs to be created from 700 to 800. No matter which figure is used, however, both remain in the nature of mere promises.
Maybe someday Honeywell UOP's Hawaii biomass fuels plant will do everything its builder promised American taxpayers. The unwillingness of Cote and Rekoske to provide specific information on the status of the project is not encouraging. "Honeywell created 10 jobs with $25 million in taxpayer funds -- a cost of $2.5 million per job. If CEO Cote is 'comfortable' with that, he is sorely out of touch with reality, and he owes the taxpayers a better explanation than the terse reply he provided me today," said Danhof.