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May 09, 2012

Wind Has Big 1st Quarter, But Congress Is In the Way

WindThere’s not much that Republicans and Democrats can agree on in Washington these days. But surprisingly, there’s one issue that not only has bi-partisan support, but is also an important way to help keep strong American jobs during this tough economy: the Production Tax Credit for wind power.

The PTC is a federal policy that helps level the playing field among energy sources by providing tax incentives to wind energy companies. It has helped support clean energy entrepreneurs building innovative wind energy companies here in America and has built a manufacturing base that didn't exist 5 years ago. Their work is helping us transition off of dirty fossil fuels that harm our health and our air, while also bolstering an industry that has already created 75,000 good, American jobs.

And this week it’s become clearer than ever that the Production Tax Credit is working.

According to the American Wind Energy Association’s first quarter report, the U.S. wind industry installed 1,695 megawatts during the first quarter of 2012 (53% more than in the first quarter of 2011) bringing the total U.S. wind power capacity installations to 48,611 MW.

This growth in wind power installation is happening all across the country. Thirty-two projects were installed across 17 states during the first quarter of 2012, and there are utility-scale wind installations in more than 75% of U.S. States. Last quarter New Hampshire and Arizona -- two states not typically thought of as traditional wind states -- grew the fastest in terms of new wind capacity.

The outlook for projects still in the pipeline looks even better. Last quarter was the second most active quarter for wind construction ever (only Q2 2008 saw more MW under construction). There are currently nearly 9,000 MW under construction across 31 states and Puerto Rico, representing 57% more megawatts under construction than during the same time last year. Today, virtually every region in the U.S. has more wind power under construction and online in 2012 than they installed in all of 2011

AWEA’s report is great news, but it’s clear that without renewing the PTC this progress will stop in its tracks. If Congress drops the ball on the PTC, the wind industry predicts that half of all wind jobs will be lost. Already we’re seeing foreign wind power companies, once committed to developing in America, moving back overseas and domestic companies, uncertain about government action, are already discussing layoffs.

Plus - the PTC only costs about 1/8 of what the US gives in subsidies to the five richest oil companies.

In this economy we should continue supporting American made jobs and helping move our country towards cleaner energy solutions which will save us all money in the long run. Republicans and Democrats alike support the PTC, but the House Republican leadership has failed to bring the issue for a vote. Whether they are holding it hostage for the benefit of big polluter backers or just failing to make it a priority, the result is the same: American families will lose their livelihoods.

It’s time to stand up to those who are protecting dirty outdated dinosaurs and putting new innovative American jobs at risk. Tell Congress to renew the production tax credit now.

-- Dave Hamilton, Director of the Sierra Club Clean Energy Program

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