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Veterans Jobs Corps Act of 2012--Motion to Proceed

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. UDALL of Colorado. Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for the quorum call be rescinded.

The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. Without objection, it is so ordered.

HONORING OUR FOREIGN SERVANTS

Mr. UDALL of Colorado. Madam President, I have been coming to the Senate floor on a daily basis to talk about the importance of the wind production tax credit, and I intend to do so today. But before I bring up that important topic I want to speak to a situation, an incident, that is on everybody's mind; that is, what happened in Libya earlier today.

I think all of us in the Senate adhere, or should adhere, to the concept that politics should cease at the water's edge. I hope in this terrible tragedy that philosophy will hold fast. I, along with all Coloradans, absolutely condemn the murders--and that is what they were--of Ambassador Stevens and other U.S. State Department personnel today in Libya.

I am a member of the Senate Committees on Armed Services and Intelligence, and I know the men and women of our diplomatic corps do absolutely vital work under difficult conditions every single day. Ambassador Stevens was a dedicated public servant who was working in Libya to advance freedom and democracy, and we will continue undeterred in our pursuit of those goals.

We salute the service and sacrifice of all those who were taken from us today, and their families are in our thoughts and prayers.

WIND PRODUCTION TAX CREDIT

Madam President, as I mentioned when I first rose, I am here again on the floor of the Senate to urge all of us to take action on an issue that already has broad bipartisan support; that is, the renewal of the production tax credit for wind energy.

I was back in my home State of Colorado for the August work period, as I know the Presiding Officer and all my colleagues were, and I saw firsthand the very positive effects wind energy has had on my State of Colorado. I also saw the sobering effects of congressional inaction, which only strengthened my resolve to have extended the production tax credit.

I want to share some specific insights and developments in Colorado and then move to the State I am going to discuss today in a little bit.

Xcel Energy operates in my home State. It has a wide area in the upper Midwest as well, but it announced it had set a record for the amount of electricity generated from wind resources. At one point Xcel's Colorado customers got over half--to be precise, 57 percent--of their electricity generated from wind power. This is a huge success, and it highlights in so many ways the potential that wind energy has to fill a larger and larger portion of our energy portfolio as this industry fully matures.

Sadly, though, I also saw the negative effects of our failure to renew the wind PTC. Vestas Wind systems, which the Presiding Officer is familiar with, does business in Colorado. It announced layoffs last month affecting 2,300 workers worldwide who are manufacturing the turbines themselves, including about 100 workers at Vestas' facilities in Pueblo and Brighton, CO.

This was both predictable and predicted, and it is time for us to act to protect American workers in the wind energy industry. Each day we fail to act to extend the production tax credit, more American jobs are put at risk, and we further cede more of our clean energy leadership to foreign competition. Look no further than Colorado for both the promise of wind energy but also the peril of congressional inaction.

Of course, these effects are not limited to my State. I am biased. I think I represent the best State in the Nation, but every day I come to the floor and I highlight a different State and the positive impacts wind energy has had there. Literally every State in the Nation has a stake in this crucial wind industry space. Today, therefore, I would like to talk about the great State of North Carolina where wind energy has literally boomed in recent years.

North Carolina--as have a lot of States--has seen a tremendous growth in its wind manufacturing sector. What are the numbers? Well, as of 2012, there are at least 17 wind manufacturing facilities in North Carolina that provide jobs to their local communities, and at least one more facility is scheduled to come online soon. The facilities produce everything from steel to lubricants and bearings.

We can see all the green circles which designate where these facilities are all across the great State of North Carolina. Let me focus on one manufacturer in North Carolina. It is PPG Industries. PPG is a major supplier of fiberglass to the wind industry, and there are hundreds of jobs linked to its activities. Their fiberglass facilities are in Shelby and Lexington, which are outside of Charlotte and Greensboro, respectively. Their growing role has been good for not only the company but for North Carolina. In 2010 PPG expanded its presence and brought online an additional furnace and created another 1,800 jobs. In sum, across North Carolina there are over 2,000 good-paying jobs, and those jobs then create a ripple effect.

If we want to look more broadly at North Carolina, they are manufacturing but they also have very significant wind energy potential in the State itself. Offshore wind resources are abundant. The American Wind Energy Association estimates that wind energy could provide enough electricity to power some 800,000 homes. That is not all: Onshore wind resources could also provide a substantial amount of power for the State.

If we look at these numbers, this is an important industry in North Carolina.

It certainly has made a difference. But if we do not extend the wind production tax credit, this strong growth in the manufacturing sector plus the potential to harvest the wind in North Carolina is at risk and the years of strong progress we have seen here toward a clean energy future in North Carolina could be literally dashed if the wind production tax credit expires at the end of the year.

Here is the bad news. The wind industry in North Carolina, because they are anticipating the expiration of PTC, is beginning to downsize and shelve expansion plans, predictably. This story is being repeated potentially all over the country. It is heartbreaking. I remain hopeful, however. I am dedicated to extending the PTC. I know the Presiding Officer has been very helpful and very supportive and understands its importance.

A little bit of good news. The Senate Finance Committee passed a bipartisan tax extenders package as we left for our August State work period and it did include an extension of PTC. I want to stress an important point about that effort: The package was bipartisan. I want to see the Senate take up the Finance Committee's legislation immediately and pass it immediately.

In a few hours the House is going to see an interesting discussion. The Presiding Officer served in the House. So did I. They are an equal partner of ours in the Senate. Over a dozen Members in the House are going to take the floor today and express their strong support for American jobs and the extension of the PTC. I am pleased these members of the House Sustainable Energy and Environmental Coalition will be adding their voices to what has become a bipartisan and now bicameral push to extend the PTC.

As I begin to close, let me also talk about the support that is out there in the country. It is a broad array of groups that have stood and said we think the PTC ought to be extended. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Governors Association, the Governors' Wind Energy Coalition, the American Farm Bureau Federation and many major national newspapers have all weighed in saying this is important to our country's future.

Members on both sides of the aisle, as I have mentioned, have said the PTC should be extended because they know and they have seen the positive effects of the PTC on their communities and across the country. They also know that wind energy--and renewable energy more generally--is the future. It is the wave of the future. There is no question. All you have to do is look at the rest of the world--look at China, look at Spain, look at Denmark, look at every developed country and the developing countries in Asia and India. They are all investing in clean energy. This is not something they are doing just to feel good. It is where economic growth will occur.

In sum, extending the PTC is a no-brainer. It is common sense. We ought to be doing the job we were sent here to do. We ought to be extending the PTC as soon as possible. PTC equals jobs. We ought to pass it as soon as possible. I am going to continue coming to the floor every day until we finish the job. I will not stop until we vote to protect American jobs. Failure to act has already hurt this vital industry. Continued inaction will result in the loss of thousands of American jobs which then has a ripple effect on the rest of the Nation's economy.

Colleagues, stand with me, stand with the Presiding Officer, stand with American workers. Let's extend the production tax credit now, as soon as possible.

I thank the Chair for her support and her interest.

I yield the floor.

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