Leaders of a bipartisan effort on Capitol Hill last week joined the U.S. wind power industry to sound an urgent call for the House Ways and Means Committee to find a vehicle as soon as possible for extending the successful Production Tax Credit (PTC) for wind energy — and avert thousands of layoffs already beginning in factories across America.
Discussing the urgent situation were U.S. Reps. Dave Reichert (R-Wash.), Steve King (R-Iowa) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.). They spoke with reporters about the bipartisan support for the PTC in Congress and the need for swift passage of the measure. The Congressmen were joined by Steve Lockard, CEO of TPI Composites, a U.S. company that manufactures wind blades at a factory in Newton, Iowa—a town previously devastated by the loss of a Maytag factory, he noted in the press conference.
The press conference came a day before a hearing in the House of Representatives’ Ways and Means Subcommittee on Select Revenue Measures. Entitled “Hearing on Certain Expiring Tax Provisions,” the hearing covered various tax extenders, as they are known, including the PTC. The PTC by far was the most discussed topic and received the greatest level of support.
“Our company has created more than 700 new jobs in Newton, and a second wind energy company there now employs over 100 people,” Lockard said. “Our industry can do the same in hard-hit towns all across the U.S., if Congress will let us and doesn’t increase taxes on wind power next year.”
AWEA CEO Denise Bode, asked House members to insist on swift action on the tax credit. Bode also released new AWEA graphics illustrating the quarter-by-quarter falloff in U.S. wind energy employment from the 75,000 jobs at the start of the year, as wind turbine orders peak around mid-year amid uncertainty over the tax credit. A full 37,000 American wind industry workers could be laid off over the course of this year if Congress does not take action.
“Timing is everything,” she said. “Our situation is urgent because we’re already seeing the loss of over $15 billion a year in private investment in America, and 37,000 U.S. jobs that depend on early extension of the Production Tax Credit.”
“Energy is an economic and national security priority and a bipartisan issue,” said Congressman Reichert. “The certainty that extending the PTC provides can and will spur growth and development, reduce electricity costs and create jobs. The PTC makes American workers competitive with their counterparts overseas so that American households can look forward to a future of affordable energy.”
“It is vital that the U.S. continue its support for wind energy, which supports manufacturing jobs, drives innovation, protects our environment, and improves our energy security,” said Congressman Blumenauer. “Extending the production tax credit is an important step that Congress can take now to preserve these benefits for the future.”
Blumenauer, who serves on the House Ways and Means Committee, said he’s heard straight from the citizens of the state he represents the impact the policy uncertainty is having. “People are making investment decisions right this minute,” he said, noting that wind projects involve investments of “tens of millions of dollars, sometimes more.” But those investments are on hold. “I’ve heard from people back home saying, ‘We’ve got to pull back,’” he said.
King called his home state of Iowa a wind energy success story and proof positive that wind power generates economic rewards. “Iowa was the first state to generate 20 percent of its electricity from wind,” he said. “Now, wind supports as many as 5,000 Iowa jobs, and $11 million in annual land lease payments to Iowa farmers. This success story is spreading across the country because wind industry leaders know how to expand this business and provide more U.S. jobs. They just need Washington to provide stable, low tax rates. The Production Tax Credit means keeping investment dollars in the market place — not in the hands of government. Now is the time for stability in the wind industry, and the PTC offers just that."
With Iowa’s high wind power penetrations and the resulting jobs, Kind said in the press conference, Iowans today truly “understand what it does economically, and they understand how clean of a power it is.”
King was scheduled to testify before the House Ways and Means Committee the next day.
American wind power has generated $15 billion to $20 billion a year in private investment over the past five years, in the process becoming one of the fastest growing U.S. manufacturing industries. But with the tax credit that is wind power’s primary policy driver set to expire at the end of the year, the supply chain is already feeling the uncertainty, and layoffs have now begun.
A recent study by Navigant Consulting found that extending the PTC will allow the industry to grow to 100,000 jobs in just four years, while an expiration would kill 37,000 jobs within a year.
Wind power fosters economic development and job creation while providing affordable energy. Nearly nine out of 10 voters — Republicans, Democrats and Independents — agree that increasing the amount of energy the nation gets from wind power is a wise choice.
In the press conference, Blumenauer underscored the bipartisan nature of wind power. Referring to previous extensions of the PTC, he said, “We’ve done this seven times before since 1992 under both Republican and Democrat administrations, and Republican and Democrat Congresses.”
Carl Levesque is the communications editor at AWEA. This article first appeared in the AWEA Windletter and was reprinted with permission from the American Wind Energy Association.
Image: Ryan Rodrick Beiler via Shutterstock
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