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Public Statements

Wind Energy Tax Credit

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. UDALL of New Mexico. Mr. President, I am pleased to join my colleague, the Senator from Colorado--my cousin, but he is more like a brother--to highlight the importance of clean energy, renewable energy. The Senator just spoke a little bit earlier about renewable energy, clean energy, and wind energy. I wish to express my support for the extension of the wind production tax credit.

Mark Udall, he knows well--as do I--how important this is. I wish to commend him for his efforts on the floor--and his persistent efforts--to try to get this done. I came to the Chamber to discuss wind incentives earlier this year. I urged then and I urge now an immediate extension. We need this before the end of the year. We need to provide certainty for wind projects and employees.

But here we are again. We have not gotten it done yet. We are going to have to keep working. As the Presiding Officer and the Senator from California know, we work on the floor, we work off the floor, we are working behind the scenes to try to get this done. We need to get this extension.

This vital tax credit for wind is set to expire in 18 short days. That would be a huge mistake to let it expire. Many projects would be delayed, thousands of jobs would be lost. Clean energy jobs have been a bright spot in our economy. We have seen wind energy capacity in America grow to the equivalent of 75 large powerplants. It is still growing. We added the equivalent of 106 large powerplants' worth of wind power in 2011. We see this on this chart. We are going to add even more this year.

This chart shows some interesting facts about wind power in New Mexico. We already have enough wind power installed in New Mexico to power 200,000 homes. We have 20 times more capacity in the planning stages. Then look at this projection: New Mexico has wind potential power 75 times more than the State's electricity need, with the right transmission lines--and I think this is something we also want to work on together--getting a good grid in place, a smart grid, and getting the areas of the country hooked up that have wind energy to be able to move it around. With the right transmission lines, New Mexico is set to become a major wind power exporter.

Wind power already supports 500 jobs in New Mexico. Wind farms mean payments for farmers and ranchers in New Mexico during times of drought. They mean a local tax base support for rural schools. They mean a brighter future for our economy. We are seeing real growth, real potential. But progress depends, in part, on us continuing the support for this tax credit. The tax credit has been extended seven times by Presidents and Congresses of both parties. It was enacted under a Democratic Congress and signed into law by President George H.W. Bush. It was extended in 1999 by a Republican Congress and signed by President Clinton. In 2005, it was extended under President George W. Bush as a part of the bipartisan energy legislation drafted by Senator Bingaman and Senator Domenici of New Mexico.

I do wish to say we are going to miss Senator Jeff Bingaman, our chairman on the Energy Committee. He has done a remarkable job of putting clean energy at the front and center of our agenda. Then this tax credit was most recently extended in 2009 as part of President Obama's Recovery Act. So renewable energy has enjoyed longstanding bipartisan support, and the wind tax credit has been a great success.

The cost of wind power has fallen dramatically, as the Presiding Officer knows. It has fallen dramatically over the years. For example, GE's wind power costs have dropped from 15 cents per kilowatt hour to near 5 cents in the last 10 years. Wind is becoming cost competitive with fossil fuels. On some days, it is the cheapest electricity available. Let me repeat that because that is important because we hear arguments out there that this is expensive. But on some days, it is the cheapest electricity available.

The Department of Energy estimates we could receive 20 percent of our electric power from wind alone by 2030. But we need to stay the course and support a policy with proven benefits. We will not need this incentive forever, but we should not eliminate it overnight. Wind resources are widely available in the West, the Midwest, and often offshore.

Support of the wind tax credit is diverse. Wind power benefits a wide variety of Americans: farmers and ranchers who lease their land, tax revenues for rural school districts, iron workers, steel workers and engineers and everyone who wants to breathe clean air. Other countries--China, India, Japan, and Germany--see these benefits too. They also want the job growth. They also want the energy security. They are acting aggressively to take leadership of the clean energy economy.

Our workers and entrepreneurs can compete with anyone on a level playing field. But the Congress is tying one hand behind their backs by leaving important incentives such as this in jeopardy. Let us continue the bipartisan support for the wind tax credit. Let us work together and get the job done for our economy, for our energy independence. Let us continue to invest in clean energy.

I suggest the absence of a quorum.

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