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37,000 jobs at risk if wind energy tax credits expire, backers say

April 25, 2012|By Ronald D. White
  • Wind turbines near Palm Springs and the San Gorgonio Pass. A bipartisan call in Congress to extend tax credits for wind energy production says such projects -- and jobs -- will be at risk if the credits expire.
Wind turbines near Palm Springs and the San Gorgonio Pass. A bipartisan… (Sandy Huffaker / Associated…)

Supporters of a bipartisan effort to protect the American wind energy industry say that 37,000 U.S. jobs will be at risk this year if Congress fails to extend the production tax credits that have been vital to wind power development.

The call for Congress to pass HR 3307, the American Renewable Energy Production Tax Credit Extension Act, was made during a teleconference hosted by three members of Congress, the American Wind Energy Assn. and TPI Composites, a Newton, Iowa-based wind blade manufacturer.

HR 3307 is sponsored by Rep. Dave Reichert (R-Wash.). The bill has 93 co-sponsors.

The AWEA said that production tax credits have helped developers secure vital private financing for wind projects and have also helped bring those projects to completion.

"Wind power has truly been an American success story," said Denise Bode, chief executive of the AWEA. "It's brought $15 billion annually in private investment to the U.S. We have a lot riding on this not just as an industry but as a country."

Pass the bill, Bode added, "and let us finish the job of creating america’s fastest growing source of manufacturing jobs." Bode said that the U.S. wind energy industry has produced 500 U.S.-based manufacturing facilities and more than 75,000 jobs.

California has between 4,000 and 5,000 wind energy jobs. The state has about 847 megawatts of wind power projects under construction this year.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), said that projects are already being affected by of the uncertainty over whether the production tax credits will be extended. The credits are currently set to expire at the end of 2012.

"We can’t just wait until the end of the year," Blumenauer said. "People are making investment decisions. They can’t make a commitment for tens of millions of dollars and sometimes much more. They will have to pull back. The uncertainty is stifling their decision-making going forward."

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) said that the uncertainty over the production tax credit over the years has been discouraging for many. He predicted an exodus from the wind energy industry if the bill isn't passed soon. The tax credits debuted in 1992. Since then, there have been years in which they were extended and other years in which they weren't.

"How many times can you be turned on and turned off before you decide to find another way to make a living?" King said.

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