By MARK UDALL
All along Interstate 25 and throughout Colorado, wind turbines loom on the horizon. These towers, marvels of modern engineering, do more than power our homes: They create jobs and move us - with each revolution of their blades - closer to energy independence.
Colorado is home to manufacturing plants and thousands of wind-energy workers who produce the towers, blades and nacelles for this growing industry. That is why I have been a vocal supporter of the wind Production Tax Credit, a vital incentive that has driven tens of billions of dollars in investment nationwide and helped plant the seeds of a cleaner energy future.
Last year, however, Washington cast a shadow over those jobs and the promise wind energy holds for Colorado and our nation when Congress refused to quickly extend the PTC before it was set to expire at the end of 2012. And we felt the effects of this inaction close to home, when Vestas and other companies laid off hundreds of Coloradans, hurting the state's fragile economic recovery.
Oftentimes, stories of workers in Colorado and across our country facing layoffs do not make it back to Washington. That is why I took to the Senate floor, nearly every day the Senate was in session, to remind my colleagues about what the PTC means to hardworking, middle-class families in Colorado and across the United States.
Thanks to the thousands of Americans who lent me their support and stories about what wind energy means to their families, businesses and communities, we were able to come together to convince Congress to extend the PTC shortly after midnight on New Year's Day.
I was proud to lead the effort to extend the PTC, and I was humbled to have Republican and Democratic lawmakers, in both the Senate and House, join me along the way.
During my many days on the Senate floor, speaking about the importance of the PTC all across our great nation, from Colorado to the Great Plains, the Pacific Northwest and the Atlantic seaboard, I had the honor of sharing with my colleagues and the nation how wind energy touches each and every one of us.
I reminded the nation how our investments in wind energy - in Colorado and across the country - create jobs, strengthen our energy security and keep us ahead of our international competitors such as China.
Despite this resounding success, I am concerned that Congress will fall back into its well-worn track of delaying action on the PTC until the last minute, creating even more uncertainty when the tax credit is set to expire again at the end of this year.
That is why I will continue working with my colleagues from both sides of the aisle to give this industry the certainty it needs over the coming years to create good-paying American jobs while being fiscally responsible. That means, as the wind industry becomes more mature, responsibly phasing out the credit and passing a comprehensive energy package that creates long-term certainty for all energy sources.
I strongly believe that any national energy policy we develop should reflect the success Colorado has had as an all-of-the-above energy state.
Great states make things - and great countries produce their own energy. Wind power is taking us closer to the goal of a clean energy future and a strengthened manufacturing sector. I look forward to continuing to work on behalf of Coloradans everywhere to ensure that our wind energy industry remains a strong, job-creating part of our economy.
U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., serves on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.