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Swing States = Wind Jobs - Energy Truth

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10/18/2012

Swing States = Wind Jobs

Tuesday’s presidential debate - the second of the election cycle - focused extensively on energy and environmental issues and highlighted several clear contrasts between the candidates. One of these in particular might play an exceptionally important role in the swing states that could determine the winner - and in the future one growing clean energy industry has in the United States.

During the debate, Governor Mitt Romney was taken to task for his refusal to support the Wind Production Tax Credit (PTC). Set to expire at the end of the year, the Wind PTC supports more than 70,000 jobs all across the country. Its been a critically important driver of clean energy and job growth, helping our country reach 50 GW of installed wind capacity that is providing up to 20% of the electricity in states like Iowa and South Dakota. But, now that the PTC’s future is threatened by a Congress that is sitting on its hands, hundreds of Americans working in the wind industry have already been laid off amid uncertainty surrounding the extension of this vital policy.

In July, Romney broke ranks with many in his own party by announcing his opposition to the extension of the Wind PTC and the jobs it creates, garnering outrage from many Republicans who recognized the threat to jobs in their states. After all, more than 80% of wind projects are in Republican-controlled Congressional districts.

Nearly 37,000 American jobs could be lost if the Wind PTC is not renewed -- and many of the states with the most wind jobs on the line are those most hotly-contested this election. There, Romney’s stance against wind jobs could come at a political cost. And - for the thousands and thousands of Americans - it could come at a cost to their livelihoods and their families.

Here is a rundown of the importance of the wind industry in several key states:

1) Colorado is now a leader in wind energy with the sixth highest percentage of power generated by wind in the country, powering the equivalent of half a million homes. Wind power operations, maintenance, construction, and many other supporting roles support up to 5,000 jobs for Coloradans at more than a dozen facilities, while more than $700 million has been invested in the wind economy. And Colorado wind power will prevent the emission of 3.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually, the equivalent of the annual greenhouse gas emissions from almost 700,000 passenger vehicles. However, uncertainty about the Wind PTC has already been blamed for layoffs at wind turbine factories in the state including hundreds at a plant operated by Vestas, threatening to derail a true clean energy success story. (More)

2) In Ohio the wind industry grew by 950% in 2011, making Ohio the state with the fastest growth in wind installations in the nation. Nearly 6,000 Ohioans currently work in wind jobs at over 50 facilities, where billions of dollars have been invested in the state’s clean energy economy. According to a study by the National Renewable Energy Lab, wind could provide more than 95% of the state’s electricity if growth in the sector isn’t stopped. (More)

3) Pennsylvania’s wind economy currently supports up to 4,000 jobs at more than 20 facilities. Gamesa, a global leader in the wind industry, invested more than $175 million in Pennsylvania to employ 800 workers in the state. But, uncertainty about the Wind PTC, that company has already announced more than 160 layoffs. (More)

Yet while wind employs thousands and thousands across these critical states and has consequently garnered significant public support in opinion polls, news coverage of clean energy often neglects the groundswell of popularity for these growing American industries. Instead, the attacks of politicians and the dirty energy industry are often highlighted. A recent study prepared by Media Matters found that selected Pennsylvania newspapers never covered the popularity of clean energy in stories about energy issues.

The dearth of coverage has perhaps encouraged Romney to take an otherwise unpopular stand. Still, wind energy continues to support families in critical election swing states - and if Romney really cares about American jobs, he’d reevaluate his opposition to the Wind PTC - policy that puts thousands of Americans to work while keeping our air and water clean.

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