On wind jobs, pols blow it
Wind power has been an electricity-producing and job-creating success. But when it comes to the wind, Congress seems prepared to blow all opportunities.
Development of the wind power industry has been driven by a 2.2 cents per kilowatt hour subsidy known as the production tax credit, which is worth about $1 billion a year. The credit will expire Dec. 31 unless Congress renews it.
With the credit in place since 2005, due to broad bipartisan support, the number of component manufacturers has grown from one to nine, employing 85,000 people in 400 plants nationwide. The percentage of each turbine that is made in the Untied States has grown to 60 percent from 25 percent. Due to uncertainty over the credit's future, there have been 10,000 layoffs in the industry, including hundreds in Pennsylvania. At the Gamesa plant in Fairless Hills, a converted steel mill, hundreds have been laid off despite the company's development of a turbine that captures low-speed wind, creating the opportunity to expand wind power development into new areas.
Wind power has grown to generate 3 percent of America's electricity, including 20 percent of electricity in Iowa and South Dakota.
Since 2005, according to the American Wind Energy Association, the cost of producing wind power has fallen by 90 percent.
The credit is a low-cost job generator that also diversifies the nation's energy portfolio while improving air quality. Its renewal is stalled due to lobbying by fossil fuel industries and opposition by presidential candidate Mitt Romney, which has put Republican congressional support in limbo.
Given that energy security and job creation are two of the biggest issues in the campaign, renewing the production tax credit should be a no-brainer on both sides of the aisle.