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Public Statements

Wind Energy Tax Credit

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. UDALL of Colorado. Mr. President, I come to the Senate floor once again to urge my colleagues to act on extending the production tax credit for wind, otherwise known as the PTC.

If we let the production tax credit, the PTC, expire in the next 18 days--we literally have 18 days before it does expire--that expiration has the potential to cost our economy thousands of good-paying middle-class jobs. We just can't let that happen. Tens of thousands of Americans who work in the wind industry are depending on us to extend this important tax credit and in doing so save jobs and encourage investment in more States, such as my State of Colorado and the State of the Presiding Officer, New Mexico. If we fail to extend the PTC, we risk jeopardizing not only our economic growth but also our capacity, our potential, our ability to continue leading the world in the development and use of clean energy technology.

I have come to the floor over 25 times to speak about this issue, and each time I do, I highlight a different State and what the PTC has done to encourage economic growth. Today I am really pleased to be able to speak about the great State of New Mexico, the State of the Presiding Officer; their wind resources rank 10th in the United States. New Mexico is an impressive example of how wind can be harnessed to create good-paying jobs, support local communities, and produce American-grown power.

I wish to speak specifically about various areas in New Mexico. New Mexico has eight counties with wind projects, as my colleagues can see from the map here. The largest one is the New Mexico Wind Energy Center. It straddles Quay County and DeBaca County, which is located in the eastern central part of the State, in this area here. This is a very impressive project, as the Presiding Officer knows since it is his home State. It opened in 2003. It runs 136 turbines and produces 200 megawatts of power. Located 170 miles south of Albuquerque, it produces enough electricity to power 95,000 New Mexico homes, which is almost half of all the homes powered by wind in the State. So this is an impressive project. The Presiding Officer has probably visited the site and knows firsthand.

In terms of jobs, wind projects employ 500 New Mexicans around the State, and these are really good-paying
jobs. We have seen all across the country that investment in wind power is really an investment in the middle class and support for what makes our country great, which is building our economy from the middle out. These jobs are found across the ledger, if you will, including operations, maintenance, construction, and manufacturing, as well as the many support sectors. Of course, we know that when we have a fundamental, core business such as this, it creates a ripple effect. There are a lot of other small businesses that take root.
New Mexico--and I don't have to tell the Presiding Officer, but I will tell him anyway--has two outstanding Senators, outstanding leaders, and they are Senator Bingaman and Senator Tom Udall. Those two Senators have championed the renewable energy sector, and they understand the significance of the production tax credit.

I particularly wish to mention Senator Bingaman, who is the chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. He has continued to press the Congress on the need to extend the PTC. I know we are going to see a package come forward that will have other clean energy tax credits in it. I am a member of the Energy Committee as well. I have that great honor. I really want to tell all of us in the country that we are going to lose a renewable energy champion when Senator Bingaman retires in just a few weeks.

Let me turn back to the potential in New Mexico for wind energy development. As I understand it, to pass this means that if we fully develop the wind resource in New Mexico, we could provide nearly 75 times New Mexico's current electricity needs. That is an enormous number. It is why we need, by the way, a grid upgrade, because when New Mexico harvests all that wind, we are going to send that energy to places such as Tucson and Phoenix, probably into Texas, and maybe all the way to the west coast.

Let me turn back again to the need to extend this tax credit. If we do not extend it--again, we have just over 2 weeks to extend it--we risk not only losing jobs but the momentum we have developed toward achieving true energy security and economic growth.

Already, because of inaction in the Congress over this last year, we have seen Americans laid off in the wind energy industry. Clean energy plays a crucial role in creating new jobs and electricity production. We cannot risk losing more good-paying American jobs. Some studies suggest that if we let the PTC expire, we are going to lose half the wind energy industry, which would fall from 75,000 jobs to something on the order of 37,000 jobs. This is not acceptable.

We cannot let the production tax credit expire. We need to pass it as soon as possible. It is simple: The PTC equals jobs. We need to pass it as soon as possible.

Think about countries such as China and Germany. They are continuing to expand their wind industries and renewable energy sectors. If we do not support our wind energy industry here and the wind manufacturing facilities, we are effectively offshoring and exporting those jobs. Our global competitors are not hesitating. They are encouraging wind power development, and they know the longer we fail to act, literally, the more wind they can steal from our sails.

So enough is enough. This is an American industry. It needs to continue to be an American industry. But we risk everything--literally everything--if we let the PTC lapse in 18 days. So let's focus on this made-in-America potential. Through it, we can obtain energy independence, we can ensure energy security, and we can keep jobs in New Mexico and Colorado and Minnesota and New York--every State in our great country. So let's not wait any longer. Let's continue to build this clean energy economy right here in the United States. Let's do it today. The PTC equals jobs. Let's pass it as soon as possible.

I yield the floor.

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