Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., vowed to make the wind energy production tax credit (PTC) his top legislative priority, and so far, he has lived up to that promise.
Udall, who co-introduced a bipartisan bill in March to extend the PTC for an additional two years, has pressed Congress every day on the urgent need to renew the PTC and intends to do so every morning until it is passed.
Udall kicked off his PTC-extension campaign last week by highlighting the tax credit's impact on American jobs. Accompanying the senator during his presentation was a large visual that read, in comically large letters, “PTC = JOBS. PASS IT ASAP.”
“This is about saving and extending American jobs,” Udall told his colleagues. “Every morning, I’m going to talk about a different state and highlight the jobs that are on the line if we fail to extend the wind energy production tax credit.”
On a press call later that day, Udall emphasized the importance of the PTC in making sure those jobs are not outsourced to other countries.
“The tax credit provides - and has provided - a strong incentive for wind energy manufacturers to locate their businesses here in the United States and make the front-end capital investments that drive job creation,” he said. “It ought to be a no-brainer to extend the PTC.
“If it were not for the PTC, these jobs would be in China, South America or somewhere else,” he continued. “And with the PTC lapsing at the end of the year, we’re seeing capital investments pull back right now, and we’re expecting to see major layoffs in the industry in a matter of weeks.”
“Vestas, one of the preeminent wind technology manufacturing companies, has production plants in Windsor, Pueblo and Brighton,” Udall said during the press call. “When you visit those plants, you quickly realize they’re good-paying jobs that rely on high-educated, skilled and, I would add, motivated workers.”
Indeed, companies across the wind energy supply chain are already suffering from the repercussions of the lapsing tax credit. Udall, therefore, has repeatedly stressed the urgency of legislative action.
“Even though the tax credit expires at the end of the year, businesses are planning now for that expiration,” he said. “So they’re pulling back now - it’s not a matter of waiting until the end of the year. We can’t wait for a lame-duck session. We need to pass the PTC ASAP.”
Many experts have suggested that because of election politics, the PTC’s best chance for passage would be during the lame-duck session. But regardless of if or when the PTC is extended, Udall seems to agree with most congressional leaders that the incentive will not be permanent.
“This tax credit won't be needed forever, but it's critically important in the near term for our country to push renewables forward,” Udall wrote on his blog last week.
The senator also stressed this point in his most recent PTC speech, which he focused on Texas, the nation’s leader in wind energy capacity. In fact, he quoted Karl Rove - former deputy chief of staff and senior adviser to President George W. Bush, as well as an unlikely PTC supporter at this year’s WINDPOWER show - on why the PTC should not be a partisan issue.
“It’s a market mechanism - you don’t get paid unless you produce the power,” Rove said. “We’re not picking winners and losers; we’re simply saying that for some period of time, we’ll provide this incentive.”
Although the fate of the PTC remains uncertain, one thing is clear: Udall isn’t giving up on it anytime soon.
“It is unacceptable for Congress not to pass this commonsense and badly needed piece of legislation,” he said. “I plan to remind my colleagues on Capitol Hill about this bill and the steep cost of doing nothing for as long as it takes to get results. The price of doing nothing is way too high.”