What’s really blowing in the wind, according to current and former wind energy officials from Ohio, Pennsylvania, Iowa, and Colorado who talked to reporters Monday on a conference call, are the tens of thousands of current and future jobs that would be gone with the wind if a wind energy tax credit set to expire at the end of the year isn’t renewed by Congress.
Blowing in the wind
After a decade’s worth capital investment spending in the billions on domestic renewable energy including wind farms that now power tens-of-thousands of home in states across the nation, the uncertainty to the industry and to the people working in it is ironic, given the state of the economy and the call for more jobs to heal it.
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As Asian countries, especially energy-hungry China, ramp up their use of renewable energy sources, American wind energy equipment and parts jobs will flow to countries not frozen in place by warring political parties, as is the case in the United States, according to Former Secretary of Energy Federico Pena, Former Iowa Governor Chet Culver, Pennsylvania wind developer Brent Aldefer and Mark Shanahan, former Director of the Ohio Air Quality Development Authority, each of whom drew sharp contrasts today between President Obama and Mitt Romney on wind energy.
The quartet of energy experts used GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney’s “Plan for Jobs and Economic Growth” as a point of reference as they laid out their case on differences between what Mr. Romney would do on alternative energy like wind and solar—end them but continue tax subsides for very profitable oil and gas companies—and what President Obama would do—continue the tax credit if Congress approves it before it expires at the end of the year.
Under “Research and Development” in Mitt Romney’s “Pro-Jobs, Pro-Market, Pro-American” economic plan, he makes it clear that he thinks wind and solar are the wrong places to make investments going forward.
“Government has a role to play in innovation in the energy industry. History shows that the United States has moved forward in astonishing ways thanks to national investment in basic research and advanced technology. However, we should not be in the business of steering investment toward particular politically favored approaches. That is a recipe for both time and money wasted on projects that do not bring us dividends. The failure of windmills and solar plants to become economically viable or make a significant contribution to our energy supply is a prime example,” it says.
Gone with the wind
Earlier this month, Romney’s campaign confirmed that Mitt Romney would let the wind production tax credit expire, according to The Hill. Officials took Mr. Romney to the woodshed over letting this growing wind industry wither, which they said would put in jeopardy 37,000 American jobs at a time when other countries around the world are pushing for more alternative, renewable energy.
The Wind Energy Tax Credit tax is slated to expire at the end of the year and the Obama Administration has called on Congress to renew the credit. The tax credit gives 2.2 cents in tax breaks for every kilowatt hour of electricity produced by wind turbines and biomass, geothermal and landfill gas plants, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported. It said extending the tax credit would “give wind energy manufacturers and suppliers more certainty that their business will move forward. An additional four years of federal incentives also is enough time to lower the cost of wind power to the point that it is as cheap as traditional sources of electricity such as coal and natural gas, industry supporters say,” AJC reported.
Mr. Pena said the growing wind industry has helped with job growth and with a rebound from the Great Recession, creating 75,000 jobs nationwide that would be gone if Congress, now deemed by experts far and wide as one of the worst in recent memory. Pena said the industry is not imaginary, as Mr. Romney and his supporters would have you believe, but a real and growing industry that has become a stable source of energy, especially in rural areas. Colorado, he said, has 5,000 jobs at stake if Congress doesn’t act, as the White House has asked them to do.
Culver of Iowa said Mr. Romney’s policy statements doesn’t match up with his rhetoric on domestic energy production. The federal stimulus, which Mr. Romney and Republicans across the board have panned as not effective, saved 40, 000 jobs in the wind industry, which represents a home-grown energy source that produces American jobs and makes the nation less dependent on fossil fuel energy sources like oil that come from foreign countries that usually don’t have America’s best interest at heart.
Mr. Aldefer, head of Community Energy Inc., said his company has connected wind farms to the utility grids of 20 companies that in turn have supplied energy to 100,000 customers. We’ve spent “billions in capital development” over the last decade, he said, emphasizing that if Mr. Romney has his way on the industry, American jobs will be shut down and Asian countries will take up the slack as manufacturers relocated jobs to countries that want a stake in the growing industry.
Shanahan in Ohio said Mr. Romney has engaged in false attacks on Obama’s policy to investment in renewable energy. He said the president saved America’s wind industry, and that in Ohio, a key battleground state for both candidates this year, wind energy has increased by 1200 percent, creating 6,000 jobs along the way. For Van Wert and Paulding counties in northwest Ohio, home to the first operational large wind farms, 27,000 homes being powered by these farms might lose their clean energy source. With this uncertainty facing the industry, Shanahan, said other pending projects are waiting for Congress to do its job. Mr. Romney, he said, likes subsidies to oil and gas companies, and Republicans have been told that if they support green or alternative energy policies, they do so at their own risk.
Among wind energy states, Ohio is the fastest growing among them with an impressive growth record of 950 percent in 2011. In all, these officials reported that there are 500 wind related manufacturers in 43 states that make equipment and components for the wind industry, which are expected to create 100,000 jobs by 2016.
According to the Obama administration, it has taken major steps to develop offshore wind resources, including approving the country’s first-ever offshore wind farm—which is expected to produce enough clean electricity to power more than 200,000 homes—and taking steps to streamline the leasing process for future offshore wind projects.
Moreover, the White House has approved the construction of 16 commercial-scale solar facilities, five wind, and eight geothermal projects on public lands that are expected to power about 1.3 million homes and support 12,500 jobs.
For a candidate and a party that constantly talk about jobs and say the economy is the big issue this election year, they said it’s unbelievable that Mr. Romney would be against the renewal of the wind energy tax credit.
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