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Governors Urge Congress to Renew Wind Energy Production Tax Credit

With the expiration of the wind energy Production Tax Credit looming and the clock ticking rapidly away to the end of 2012, a bipartisan group of U.S. governors is urging Congress to act now to save jobs. In a joint press conference held today, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) stressed that uncertainty over the extension of the wind energy Production Tax Credit (PTC) is already beginning to have an impact on renewable energy jobs.

“The uncertainty about the future of this tax incentive,” Grassley said, “hurts the economic good that these policies do.” Grassley, who authored the original wind energy PTC in 1992 and has also sponsored Senate bill (S. 3521), which aims to extend the tax credit for at least another year, pointed to the expiration of the biodiesel tax credit in 2010 as an example that he says resulted in 23,000 jobs being “put on hold.” This is a situation that all involved are keen to prevent from happening to wind energy in their states.

Governor Terry Branstad (R-IA) also cited uncertainty about the wind energy PTC’s fate as a major playing factor in the decision of some companies to have already begun eliminating jobs. “Due to the uncertainty,” Branstad said, “we’ve begun to see a negative economic impact and loss of jobs in our states. In Iowa, Siemens recently announced the layoff of 400 employees at their plant in Fort Madison, and Clipper Windpower laid off 100 workers at their plant in Cedar Rapids. We have literally thousands of wind energy related jobs in our state. These are high tech, high paying jobs.” Branstad says he remains hopeful that Congress will act quickly to extend the PTC.

Branstad is the chair of the Governors’ Wind Energy Coalition, which is a group comprised of 28 state governors who all share the goal of leveraging wind energy resources as a way to pursue the long-held goal of lasting energy independence.

“Nationally, wind energy drives about $10 to $20 billion a year in private sector capital investment and employs almost 75,000 Americans,” said John Kitzhaber (D-OR), Governor of Oregon and vice chair of the Governors’ Wind Energy Coalition. Kitzhaber used Oregon’s own Sherman County as an example of how rural communities can utilize wind energy production to drive revenue. “The county now receives $33 million per year in revenue from wind farms,” Kitzhaber said. “That’s revenue that has proved essential to sustain schools, fire departments and road maintenance.”

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper (D-CO), also a member of the Governor’s Wind Energy Coalition, said the renewal of the PTC is critical to helping the country have “a realistic chance of being completely energy independent in the next 10 years.” Hickenlooper also cited widespread support of wind energy within Colorado as clear indication of its appeal. “The support comes from every demographic you could imagine,” Hickenlooper said. “It’s quite clearly the single largest and most popular initiative that we have in the energy sector.”

A failure by Congress to renew the wind energy Production Tax Credit, which expires as of January 1, could cause the wind industry’s momentum to stall and the unemployment rate to climb. According to Governor Sam Brownback (R-KS), the state of Kansas experienced “massive investment” in wind energy in 2012, but 2013 so far looks bleak, with layoffs announced at the Siemens wind power plant in the city of Hutchinson.

“We have virtually no new wind operations going in next year after nearly $3 billion in investment this past year,” Brownback said. “That shows just how dramatic the impact is of the Production Tax Credit.”

Grassley said that Congress will likely not have an opportunity to discuss the extension of the wind energy PTC until after Thanksgiving week, and discussions are more likely to occur in the four weeks leading up to the end of 2012.

Lead image: Wind turbines via Shutterstock

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Vince Font is a freelance journalist specializing in the fields of renewable energy, high tech, travel, and entertainment. Read his blog at www.vincefont.com or follow him on Twitter @vincefont.

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