By Senator Mark Udall
For the past few weeks, I have taken to the U.S. Senate floor to convince my colleagues to save a bright spot in American manufacturing jobs: the wind industry.
The wind energy sector employs 75,000 hard-working Americans in well-paying jobs -- 6,000 jobs in Colorado alone. Those jobs have a tremendous positive ripple effect in their communities that extends to our economic and energy health.
In just the past four years, wind represented 35 percent of all new power capacity in our country -- second only to natural gas. Last year alone, more than 100 different wind projects were installed -- ranging from a single turbine to over 4,000-megawatt-capacity plants. From just five in 2005, domestic and international manufacturers grew to 23 at the end 2011. Vestas has a big presence in Colorado with facilities in Pueblo, Windsor and Brighton.
The wind Production Tax Credit, or PTC, has been a key factor in this growth by helping make wind energy, which is still being commercialized, more economical for Americans.
However, this critical tax credit expires at the end of this year. There are rumblings in Washington that we ought to leave a vote on its extension for the lame-duck session after elections.
But the industry cannot wait that long.
Due to congressional inaction, investors have held back millions of dollars in capital and declined to make any new commitments -- jeopardizing thousands of jobs throughout the wind energy sector in Colorado and the country. We risk those jobs and our country's global leadership and energy independence if Congress fails to act as soon as possible.
If we do not pass the PTC, the wind industry will immediately start contracting. The numbers tell the story: estimates are we could lose almost half of the wind-supported jobs, from 78,000 in 2012 down to 41,000 in 2013. And without the PTC, total wind investment is projected to drop by nearly two-thirds, from $15.6 billion in 2012 to $5.5 billion in 2013.
I have said on the Senate floor that we are at a make-or-break moment for wind energy. Consistent policy support will give job creators certainty to continue to strengthen the industry and our leadership in wind development. Letting the PTC expire kills thousands of jobs, blocks billions of dollars in investment and sacrifices our position in the global economic race for clean energy technology.
It has been frustrating to watch every proposal to extend the PTC founder in the Senate, especially given its broad support across the aisle. The United States belongs on the cutting edge of renewable energy technologies -- in particular ones that put our country on a path to secure our energy independence.
The hourglass has turned and we are fast running out of sand. It's time to show the American people that Congress can act urgently on a measure that already has bipartisan support. It's time to stop sending jobs overseas; to stop ceding ground to competitors like China, Germany and India; and to stop harming domestic industries and manufacturing. It's time to pass the wind PTC.