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Small Business Jobs and Tax Relief Act -- Motion to Proceed

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. WHITEHOUSE. Mr. President, I am delighted to join my senior colleague from Rhode Island, Senator Jack Reed, on the Mark Udall national economic tour of the renewable energy production tax credit, and I am delighted that daily tour has touched on Rhode Island today.

This renewable energy production tax credit is a vital part of our energy security strategy. It is pretty simple. It provides a per-kilowatt hour corporate tax credit for energy that is produced by various clean energy systems, such as wind, biomass, hydro, or geothermal. It makes a lot of sense. We need to do it. The problem is that it expires at the end of this year. And given the way that wind, biomass, solar, and other such projects have to be financed in advance and built over time, the market effect of the expiration of this production tax credit at the end of this year is already being felt in projects that are not going forward now or are under a cloud right now because of the uncertainty we are creating.

We know what happens when we allow the production tax credit to fail: The installations of this kind of equipment drop dramatically. The Department of Energy estimates that new wind installations will be virtually nonexistent next year if the production tax credit is allowed to expire. I don't know if there is a State in the Union in which people are not seeking to build wind energy to capture this free and abundant resource. All those projects will become nonexistent if this does not continue. It doesn't make any sense at all.

In Rhode Island, it is particularly important not only because we don't have a lot of domestic energy sources--so this is a good one for us as a domestic energy source--but also because of the jobs these projects support. We are not supporting international shipping tycoons who bring the oil over here, we are not supporting Saudi princes who pump the stuff or other folks from OPEC or around the world. We are supporting engineers in America, manufacturers in America, assemblers in America, factory workers in America, when we go this route.

My home State is still at 11 percent unemployment, so we have no tolerance for knocking down these jobs. This is not an acceptable energy strategy, it is not an acceptable jobs strategy. It is self-defeating for America's interests.

Senator Reed mentioned TPI Composites. It is a great company. It is in Warren, RI. In the Warren and Bristol area, there is a real constellation of incredibly talented folks and small companies that are affiliated with the boat building industry. TPI and others do composite work--hulls, spars, masts, products that are light, strong, fast, and that help Rhode Island build the fastest and the best boats in the world. This technology has been transitioned from plain boat building and hull building to building the giant wind vanes that turn on these giant wind turbines.

This is an important industry for us and it is a valuable American industry. The idea that we would burn foreign oil rather than building composite wind vanes in Warren, RI, makes no sense at all. We are in the final stages of getting the Department of Interior's approval to build offshore wind turbines in Rhode Island. Senator Reed and I have worked very hard to get TIGER grant funding to Quonset Point, where they have hardened up the pier so that a crane can operate on it. You don't see much on the pier now. It is flat, but it was dug out, steel was put in, and concrete was put down. Had we driven the crane out on the old pier, it would have crumbled down into the water and taken the crane with it. So we had to harden up the pier to put this crane out there, and the crane is now in a position to take these big wind turbines, which are too big to put on a truck and too big to put on a train. You have to build and assemble them shoreside and then barge them out to a location. We can do that now at Quonset Point. The project is expected to create 600 to 800 new jobs, and it could expand beyond that and position this Rhode Island facility as a hub for regional wind energy manufacturing.

This is important to us. We need this production tax credit. It goes along with a long history of government support for emerging industries. When the commercial airline industry was beginning to open, it had immense government support from subsidized airmail, from military contracts, from aeronautics R&D. The reason we took it from the Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk to massive Boeing factories--which is still one of the world leaders in aircraft production--is because along the way the government supported American industry because they knew--we knew--this was an industry that had to compete with overseas manufacturers and needed our support.

In the same way, the clean energy industry is in an arena of international competition in which our country and our companies are competing with foreign interests. We are competing with foreign companies and we are competing with the foreign governments that back them. Unfortunately, many in this building don't see that. All they see is the old, dirty, polluting fossil fuel industry and competition for the fossil fuel industry from clean energy. So they want to knock it down. Never mind that the well-established fossil fuel industries get far more in terms of government support than emerging clean energy technologies. The Environmental Law Institute points out that the United States has invested nearly six times more in subsidies for fossil fuel from 2002 to 2008 than we did in renewable energy. So it is not that their hands are clean of government support; they are here sucking up all the government subsidies they can, and they don't want clean energy to compete with them. They want to knock it down. That is a terrible mistake. We cannot allow the heavy hand of the fossil fuel industry lobbyists to stamp out competition in clean energy. It may be good for big oil, but it is not good for America, because we are in international competition to lead the world and be the manufacturers of wind, solar, geothermal, and other technologies. We are going to end up buying it. We want to also have built it. And, if we can, we want to be exporting it as well. We need to support these industries as they continue to develop and continue to grow so we can once again lead the world as we have in the past.

I thank Senator Udall of Colorado for his leadership. He persistently and patiently comes every day to help make this point, and I am delighted he happened to choose Rhode Island as his point of focus today because Rhode Island truly does wrap it up. It is energy security, energy independence, local jobs and getting ahead and winning the game of international competition for this new technology.

I yield the floor.

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Mr. WHITEHOUSE. If the Senator will yield for a question.

Mr. GRASSLEY. Yes.

Mr. WHITEHOUSE. I not only salute what the Senator from Iowa has done on the production tax credit, but I also recognize that one of our great Rhode Island companies that is developing bioprocessed algal fuels has opened its major facility in the Senator's State, and there is a very good Iowa-Rhode Island connection on the development of algal fuels. I appreciate the fact our two States are able to work together so this Rhode Island company can have such a significant facility in Iowa.

Mr. GRASSLEY. For the Senator from Rhode Island, I believe that Rhode Island facility went to an existing ethanol plant in Shenandoah, IA--southwest Iowa.

Mr. WHITEHOUSE. It did.

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