BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. SANDERS. Mr. President, let me begin by thanking Senator Mark Udall for his continued focus on ensuring that Congress extends the production tax credit. Senator Udall has been down on the Senate floor time after time after time on this important issue, and we all owe him a deep debt of gratitude. I thank the Senator very much.
I also want to thank him for his very kind words about the NRG company. We hope when the Senator visits us in Vermont, he will see it. They are a cutting-edge company. They are an extraordinary company, and we are very proud of the work they have done and are doing, and we are cognizant of the problems they are facing today, the layoffs they have had to experience because Congress has not passed the production tax credit.
Mr. President, as you know, this important incentive, the production tax
credit, moves us forward in a direction that we must go in terms of producing safe, sustainable energy by providing a 2.2-cent-per-kilowatt-hour incentive for wind energy produced.
Let's be very clear--and I think a lot of people, perhaps, in Congress and certainly all over the country do not fully grasp this. I think some people still think wind is some kind of cute fringe technology which is not very significant in the United States of America. So let's be very clear: Wind accounts for 35 percent of all new electric-generating capacity installed in our country over the last 5 years, more new electricity capacity during that time than nuclear and coal combined. Let me repeat that. Wind accounts for 35 percent of all new electric-generating capacity installed in our country over the last 5 years. This is not some untested fringe technology; it is mainstream.
Wind today is producing electricity at very competitive rates. According to the Department of Energy, wind is producing electricity from between 4 to 7 cents per kilowatt hour. That happens to be far cheaper than electricity produced by new nuclear plants. Today the United States has over 48,000 megawatts of wind, and Texas alone has over 10,000 megawatts. Iowa and South Dakota have achieved the milestone of getting 20 percent or more of their electricity from wind. Once again, this is not a fringe technology. This is a technology that is growing and is cost effective.
In my State of Vermont, we are home to leading wind companies such as Northern Power in Barre and NRG Systems in Hinesburg. These companies sell wind energy products globally and create good-paying jobs in the State of Vermont. The wind industry supports over 470 manufacturing plants nationally and some 78,000 jobs from one end of our country to the other.
If Congress fails to act on the wind tax credit, we could see a hemorrhaging of some 37,000 wind energy jobs in the next year. We have already seen wind job losses in Vermont due in part to the uncertainty. If one opposes the production tax credit, this is what they are saying to construction workers who want to build wind farms next year: Sorry; you are out of work. In the middle of this severe recession, we should not be saying that.
Those opposing the wind credit say Congress should ``not pick winners and losers.'' Unfortunately, for many decades, for better or for worse, Congress has picked winners and losers. That is just the simple reality. One big winner is the fossil fuel industry, which is set to receive over $113 billion in subsidies over the next 10 years. So when folks come to the floor and say: We do not want to pick winners and losers, we do not want to give tax breaks and tax credits for wind or solar, the truth is that in a 10-year period, the fossil fuel industry will receive over $113 billion in subsidies.
These subsidies include rather incredible loopholes, such as allowing BP to take a tax writeoff for the cost of cleaning up their disastrous oilspill in the gulf. Many of these tax subsidies for Big Oil and coal corporations never phase out and never expire.
Another big winner in terms of support from the Federal Government is the nuclear power industry. They get tens of billions of dollars in Federal research and development. They get risky multibillion-dollar Federal loan guarantees for new plants, and they get the Federal Price-Anderson liability insurance program, which has been conveniently extended for over a half a century.
I raise these points to suggest that what we are asking for is fairly modest compared to what the fossil fuel industry and the nuclear power industry receive. It is absurd that Congress continues huge subsidies for the fossil fuel industry, for the nuclear power industry, and yet is resisting providing support for safe and sustainable energy such as wind.
If we are serious about job creation and putting construction workers back to work, if we are serious about reversing global warming and cutting back on greenhouse gas emissions, we must be investing in the growing sustainable energy sector. At a modest cost compared to the huge subsidies for fossil fuels and nuclear, an extension of the production tax credit can provide wind energy companies the certainty they need to invest in job creation in America.
I wish to congratulate Senator Udall for his excellent work and his leadership on this issue. I look forward to working with him and all of my colleagues so that we extend the production tax credit and create a more level playing field for sustainable energy.
With that, I yield the floor.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT