Extending a wind Production Tax Credit (PTC), set to expire in December 2012, has been held up in Congress as a result of Republican opposition that’s been directly tied to Mitt Romney. The tax credit—which amounts to 2.2 cents per kilowatt hour—has been essential in growing America’s wind industry. The BlueGreen Alliance—which unites labor unions and environmental organizations—reports that around 2,000 workers in the wind industry lost their jobs in the past few months as a result of inaction on the tax credit, and thousands of additional jobs in the wind industry are at stake. One report found that without the PTC, wind power output will drop from more than 8 gigawatts (GW) in 2012 to 2 GW in 2013, and jobs in the wind industry “will drop by nearly half, from 78,000 in 2012 to 41,000 in 2013.”
The PTC was established in 1992 under the Energy Policy Act and has been repeatedly renewed. As it has long enjoyed bipartisan support, there was every indication that it would be extended again this past July until Romney spoke out in favor of letting the tax credit expire. The tax credit would cost the Treasury about $3.3 billion over two years but generates far more than that in the form of economic stimulus.
According to a report commissioned by the American Wind Energy Association, extending the PTC for four years would result in 8-10 GW of annual installations through 2016, total wind investments growing to $16.3 billion in 2016 and 95,000 wind-supported jobs by 2016.
Wind power projects require long lead times to plan and implement, so without the assurance of a tax credit, they are essentially in holding periods. One wind energy company, Gamesa, is headquartered in Philadelphia and has furloughed 165 workers while they await the outcome of the PTC. One of those workers, steelworker Ryan Motel, is now touring the country calling on Congress to bring the PTC up for vote before the end of the year.
“My job is at stake, but so are the jobs of many others,” said Motel. “If companies aren’t building wind farms because they’re not sure what their return on their investment will be, they aren’t buying our blades. My message to Congress is simple: End this uncertainty, save my job, and save the jobs of thousands of people like me across the country.”
This message has been reinforced by a television ad put out by the League of Conservation Voters that criticize Romney for his opposition to the tax credit. The ad is running in Colorado in the lead-up to Wednesday’s first presidential debate in Denver and features Chris Maese who was working for the Vestas plant in Pueblo, Colorado, and was one of 90 workers laid off earlier this summer as the industry grappled with uncertainty about the tax credit.
In the ad, Maese says: “I got laid off because Mitt Romney and his friends in Congress want to eliminate tax credits for the wind industry. I think Mitt Romney is not in touch with the little guy. He’s always been a supporter of big oil. He has friends that are in the big oil industry. That might be great for Mitt Romney and big oil, but try telling that to my kids.”
President Obama has called for extending the PTC and has the support of state Republican officials in Iowa and South Dakota where wind is a major industry. But Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives are coalescing behind Romney’s call to end the credit—and are urging Speaker of the House John Boehner to eliminate it. A decision on the wind PTC and other “tax extenders” is expected after the election.