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April 02, 2012

Congress Holds the Fate of 40,000 Jobs in Its Hands

WindEarlier this month, Senator Chuck Grassley introduced an important bill (S.2201) that would extend the Production Tax Credit (PTC) for wind energy by two years, and by one year for projects that generate energy from biomass, geothermal, and "closed-loop" bioenergy.  If congress fails to act, the PTC will expire at the end of the calendar year, threatening the very survival of the burgeoning clean energy industry and the 40,000 jobs that were created by this program.  

The PTC credits companies 2.2 cents for every kilowatt-hour (kWh) of clean energy they produce, for the first ten years of each facility’s operation. This investment has allowed the industry to grow to where it is today, and is vital to sustain clean energy in our country.  At a time when we need clean energy more than ever, we simply cannot afford to let the PTC to expire.

The primary industrial beneficiary of the PTC has been the wind industry, but the benefits to the American people have been two-fold. First, wind energy is clean and home-grown. Second, the supply-chain for wind is based in the U.S., which means the jobs in the wind industry- manufacturing, transporting installation - all stay at home.

Just look at the job numbers:

Today, the wind industry employs 78,000 Americans in more than 400 facilities, in 43 states. In 2012, more than 60% of a wind turbine’s value is produced in the United States, compared to only 25% in 2005. Over the last four years, private investment in wind energy has averaged $17 billion a year.

A failure to extend the PTC would lead to approximately 37,000 jobs lost in the wind industry (almost half of current industry jobs). It will also cancel billions of dollars in private investment, and stymie recent progress to put America on a clean energy future.

Extending the PTC will allow current progress to continue.

If the PTC remains in place, the wind industry is projected to create 54,000 additional American jobs in the next four years, including 46,000 manufacturing jobs. This rate of growth would keep the industry on track to support 500,000 jobs by 2030.

If congress doesn’t act soon, the wind industry will  face crippling setbacks. Manufacturers have to get their orders in from operators today so that they can be ready for next year. Without the certainty that the PTC will be in place, no operator is willing to make these investments in materials.

If the PTC is allowed to expire, it would be devastating for states across the country. Senator Chuck Grassley, a Republican from Iowa – where wind power generates 20% of the state’s electricity - has introduced strong legislation to extend the PTC and help sustain this important industry. His measure already enjoys bipartisan support.  The Sierra Club, along with our friends in labor, industry, and health and environment groups, will do all we can in the coming months to make sure we sustain this important investment in our country’s future.

-- Radha Adhar, Associate Washington Representative for the Sierra Club

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