PTC Stalls, Wind Energy Workers Laid Off

As the Production Tax Credit (PTC) remains stalled in Congress, worker layoffs in the wind energy industry are rising. The Iowa Wind Energy Association has been forewarning legislators that if the PTC is not extended, thousands of Americans could lose their jobs.  Proof: Siemen’s has laid off more than 400 workers in its Fort Madison wind turbine blade plant. Other companies that have let employees go include Clipper and Vestas among others.

Layoffs will accelerate as many wind farms currently under construction will be completed by December 31, 2012. Without the security of the Production Tax Credit, investors are not moving forward with the monies needed to build or expand wind farms. This in turn dries up demand for the entire wind turbine supply chain.

Iowa leads the nation in the number of people employed with component manufacturers and wind related companies. The industry totaled nearly 7,000 across the state until the layoffs began. Following the Siemen’s announcement, 10 percent of Iowa’s wind energy workforce has disappeared.

On the national level, the failure to extend the PTC could cost as many as 37,000 jobs according to estimates by Navigant Consulting. A delay could reduce the expansion of the wind energy industry between 75 percent to 90 percent compared to previous years.

The lowa Congressional Delegation is leading the effort to expand the PTC in both the Senate and House. Yet the Iowa Wind Energy Association notes that legislators need more help from Senators and Representatives from other states to grow a bipartisan coalition to move the extension forward. This can be done through grassroots efforts including contacting your local legislator to let them know how important the wind energy industry is to America.

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  1. August 14, 2012

    Romney and Obama on Tax Breaks for Iowa and other Wind Energy States.

    On Sunday, August 12, 2012, Catharine Ho of the Washington Post pointed out that President Obama, while in Iowa, attacked Mitt Romney because the Romney campaign has announced opposition to the extension of the 20-year old tax breaks for “wind energy,” suggesting that this will cost Romney critically needed votes from the voters in wind-rich Iowa.

    It would be refreshing if Mitt Romney DOES NOT pander to the people of Iowa on tax breaks for wind energy. He should stand fast against wind tax breaks despite the views of Iowa Republic Governor Branstead, Senator Grassley, Congressmen King and Latham who, for far too long, have been insisting that citizens, taxpayers and consumers outside Iowa support Iowa’s parochial energy policies.

    The fact is that electricity from wind is very high in cost and very low in real value! If Iowans want to use expensive wind energy, they should pay the full cost and not expect people in other states to bear the cost of their expensive energy decisions.

    The same principal should apply in California, Texas, Minnesota, Oregon, Washington and other states where state governments have created artificial, high price markets where producers of high cost electricity from wind can sell their product, specifically by forcing electric utilities to include that high cost electricity in their mix of energy sources. If political leaders in those states insist on high cost electricity, the citizens in those states should pay for their leaders’ decisions – not expect the rest of us to support those decisions by “picking up the tab” via federal tax breaks and subsidies

    Of course, the faulty decisions begin with the wind industry and other wind energy advocates who have lobbied for the federal tax breaks. For more than a decade leaders of these groups have greatly overstated the benefits of wind energy and understated or ignored wind energy’s inherently high cost, low value, and adverse environmental, electric system reliability, scenic and property value impacts. They have also exaggerated the job and economic benefits of wind energy. They have misled the public, media and government officials.

    In the past, political leaders and the media might have been excused for being misled by the wind energy advocates. However, for at least five years, the above facts about wind energy have been clear. There is no longer any justification for continuing the 20 year old tax breaks for wind energy nor is there any good evidence that wind energy will ever become commercially viable (i.e., without tax breaks and subsidies).

    The damage from the past 20 years of tax breaks and subsidies for wind energy have been significant, including:

    a. The transfer hundreds of millions of dollars from the pockets of ordinary taxpayers and electric customers to the pockets of heavily subsidized “wind farm” owners and developers and wind turbine suppliers (many from foreign countries).

    b. The misdirection of billions of capital investment dollars to energy projects — wind turbines — that produce little electricity, which electricity is intermittent, volatile, unreliable and low in value because it is produced primarily at night in colder months, not on hot weekday afternoons in July and August when electricity is most in demand.

    c. Its contribution to the growing national problem whereby once great companies have found it more profitable and less risky to focus a large share of their human resources on “mining” Washington and state capitals for tax breaks and subsidies rather than engaging those resources in innovative and productive endeavors in the private sector that would make a far greater contribution to economic and job growth.

    The fact that faulty federal wind energy policies can be traced back to the Republican administration of George H. W. Bush should not cause Mr. Romney to hesitate about maintaining a strong stance against special interest tax breaks for wind energy.

    Mr. Romney needs to stand against special interest tax breaks of all kinds, even though he would be at odds with six Republican members of the Senate Finance Committee (Grassley, Hatch, Thune, Roberts, Crapo and Snowe) who recently joined the Committee’s 13 Democrats in voting to extend and expand Production Tax Credits (PTC) and Investment Tax Credits (ITC) for wind energy. He should not accept Senator Hatch’s excuse that “ The Finance Committee’s bill “…isn’t perfect, but it is an essential step towards the ultimate goal of comprehensive tax reform.”

    He needs to send the same message to wavering Republicans in the House of Representatives. It is long past the time when members of Congress should be excused for putting well financed special interests ahead of the interests of ordinary citizens, taxpayers and electric customers who are bearing the costs AND our children and grandchildren who will bear the burden of the debt that those members are blissfully building up!

    Glenn R. Schleede
    Ashburn, VA