Today, during a hearing about the president's proposed budget in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Mark Udall questioned Energy Secretary Steven Chu about the importance of extending the expiring tax credits for wind energy production and other renewable energy sources. Thousands of Coloradans work in the wind energy industry, but the industry could be seriously affected if the tax credits expire at the end of the year as scheduled.
Udall pressed Chu to talk about the future of U.S. energy jobs and the administration's efforts to ensure we lead in the global clean energy economy if the production tax credit (PTC) were to expire. Udall has been joined by many others, including Senator Michael Bennet, in fighting for the PTC. Today, Udall's questions prompted other senators to pick up the thread and reiterate to Chu the importance of extending the tax credit.
"We're at a really critical juncture here in regards to the PTC. It's been very instrumental in expansion and deployment (of renewable energy) around our country," Udall said to Chu. "Every state has a stake in this, whether the states are producing wind in any significant amounts, because of the supply chain that's developed. This very important policy expires at the end of 2012. Would you speak to the ramifications if we don't extend the PTC in the time frame we have left?"
Chu responded that jobs would certainly be affected if the tax credits aren't extended. Wind and other renewable energy companies will locate factories - and create jobs - in countries where there's a market for the energy so they can sell their products at home. Right now, China is competing to become the world's number one wind energy supplier.
"A clean energy standard, a production tax credit - those are mechanisms that can stimulate private sector investment ... that can stimulate manufacturing in the United States," Chu answered. "You talk to any supplier of wind - they'd rather set up a supply chain in the country where these things (turbines and other equipment) are being sold - this is heavy stuff. We need to spur this market. We're either going to be buying or selling - and I'd rather be selling."
After the hearing, Udall vowed to keep fighting for the PTC: "Colorado alone has seen thousands of jobs created within this industry - Coloradans depend on wind energy jobs. The PTC, along with several other key renewable energy tax credits, is essential to provide certainty to these still-growing renewable energy businesses. We can't afford to let it expire. I'm urging all of my colleagues to join me in fighting to get this done."
Udall has co-sponsored an amendment with Senator Bennet and urged Congress to extend the PTC and other renewable energy tax credits as part of any upcoming tax policy legislation, or even as part of the transportation bill currently being debated by the Senate. In addition, this week, he is joining Republican Senator Jim Moran of Kansas in sending another letter to Senate leaders asking them to move quickly to expand the tax credit in any way possible. Last week, he signed on to a Colorado delegation letter calling on a congressional conference committee to extend the wind energy production tax credit as part of the payroll tax extension.