By Senator Mark Udall
Great states like Colorado make things. We innovate, we manufacture and we create jobs. Great countries like the United States make their own energy.
For Coloradans, these facts are not secrets. For years, we have led the way in creating jobs and powering our nation. From clean-burning natural gas to our abundant wind energy, Colorado is a leader in responsibly harnessing our domestic resources in the pursuit of job creation and energy independence.
However, one critical facet of our all-of-the-above approach to energy security is at grave risk. Congressional inaction on extending the wind production tax credit (PTC), which expires at the end of this year, could pull the rug out from under the wind energy industry.
The wind industry repeatedly has warned Congress that employers will start to lay off workers, anticipating that Republicans and Democrats will not be able to come together to extend this vital tax credit before the end of the year. Indeed, thousands of jobs -- 6,000 in Colorado and 75,000 nationwide -- could disappear if Congress does not extend the wind PTC.
And, sure enough, the repeated warnings are coming true. This week, wind-producer Vestas announced it is laying off roughly 3 percent of its workforce in Northern America, including workers at its Pueblo facility.
Last month, during my visit to this facility, workers there implored me to continue my fight on the floor of the U.S. Senate to extend the wind PTC. As they warned then and sadly know now, congressional inaction has real-world consequences. Pueblo -- which is home to the largest wind tower manufacturing facility in the world -- and communities around the country know that the PTC forms the foundation for good-paying manufacturing jobs.
Facilities across the United States make more and more of the 8,000 component parts of a wind turbine. In Colorado alone, we make everything from steel brackets to carbon fiber reinforcements for wind turbine blades.
We need to keep manufacturing in America. And, equally important, we need made-in-America energy. It makes little sense for Congress to effectively outsource these jobs to China and other regions of the world while at the same time jeopardizing a cleaner and more secure energy future.
Some have questioned whether the wind PTC is necessary or if wind should be able to stand on its own two feet from the get-go. But this line of thinking does not take the long view of America's pursuit of energy independence. The wind PTC is no different from the tax incentives and benefits the federal government has given to establish the coal, oil, natural gas and other energy industries we rely on today.
Here in Colorado, nearly the entire congressional delegation -- Republicans and Democrats -- has united in support of the wind PTC. Nationally, we have seen leaders from both parties joining us in this fight, including Republicans Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansas, Karl Rove and U.S. Rep. Steve King of Iowa.
If we are going to keep making and building things in America, and if we are going to build a future of energy independence, we need to pass an extension of the wind PTC now. Colorado cannot afford to wait for the next set of layoffs and plant closures.
We should not let Washington gridlock slowly suffocate the wind industry and the jobs it creates. Congress needs to act on the PTC ASAP.
Mark Udall serves on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. He is the senior senator for Colorado.