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February 24, 2012

As Congress Fails to Act, Clean Energy Jobs Hang in the Balance

WindMembers of Congress are not in Washington this week, but all eyes remain on them to help our economy recover. That’s why it’s shocking that Congress has so far failed to act on a common-sense measure before it that would ensure clean energy can continue to grow at a record pace. Tens of thousands of clean energy jobs literally hang in the balance.

Congress is holding the fate of more than 40,000 jobs in the clean energy industry in its hands – right now – as they hem, haw, and delay deciding whether to renew critical energy financing provisions such as the Production Tax Credit (PTC) for onshore wind, the “1603” grants that have created jobs in the solar sector, access to the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) for offshore wind projects, and credits for efficient manufacturing, homes, and appliances. 

These much-needed incentives will ensure we continue to create jobs at record levels in the wind and solar industries, as well as providing much-needed support to sectors of our economy that were hardest-hit by the recession, such as manufacturing and home construction.

According to the American Wind Energy Association, the U.S. wind industry employs more than 75,000 people, and there are more than 400 manufacturing facilities in 43 states. The tax credit for that industry means they can not only keep these jobs, but also create almost 100,000 more jobs in the next four years.

The failure by Congress to extend the PTC as part of last week’s payroll tax bill compromise – and make a dependable commitment to clean energy – has already dried up orders for new wind turbines and created a crisis where thousands of layoffs are imminent. At a time when we can least afford job losses, Congress is creating this problem by its failure to act, and Congress can solve it.

In the solar industry, the Solar Energy Industries Association says this about another program at risk:

The 1603 program enabled solar installers to develop 22,000 projects across the United States, with an average of $153,000 in private sector investment generated by each project. These projects were developed primarily by small businesses that created jobs and new economic opportunity in the U.S. The expiration of the program is putting many of these companies at risk.

We urge clean energy supporters in the House and Senate to redouble their efforts and take swift action to prevent mass layoffs and stabilize financing conditions for the clean energy sector and create jobs. Those blocking these field-leveling incentives in Congress can expect to bear direct responsibility for the loss of thousands of good paying American clean energy jobs.

Congress cannot continue to put growing American industries and clean energy jobs in jeopardy. It’s irresponsible, unnecessary, and it will put America at a disadvantage, as other countries sprint ahead of us in the race to the clean energy future.

Tell Congress to step up, make a commitment to clean energy jobs, and ensure this industry continues to grow.

-- Mary Anne Hitt, Director of the Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign

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