Wind energy advocates call this week “Wind Week” as they push to get the Production Tax Credit (PTC) for wind energy extended before Congress takes another undeserved vacation before the election. Wind Week shows the urgency with the upcoming expiration of the PTC at year’s end.
Bob Keefe, a spokesman with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), said in an interview with “The Hill” Monday that there is an eight-day window to get the incentive through the Senate. If the Senate does not act before Congress departs in 8 days, another wave of job losses might occur.
“The idea is that the PTC is gong to expire at the end of the year, Congress doesn’t have a whole lot of time to do something about it and these eight days are going to be crucial,” Keefe said.
The Senate Finance Committee passed a $205 billion tax extenders package before the August recess that included the wind incentive setting up the possibility for a vote. A tax extenders package is usually a non-confrontational bill that extends all tax-related acts that have sunset provisions meaning they expire periodically to allow Congress to review them.
The groups want to get the bill passed in the Senate to signal hope to the wind industry that Congress may act before the credits expire. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV.) has said he is "very confident" the incentive will clear the Senate this year.
Peter Kelley, a spokesman with the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), said on Monday that his organization does not know whether there would be a Senate vote on the package this week. “I guess with every day it becomes more likely that the whole thing will have to be done in the lame duck,” he said.
The uncertainty over the PTC has already hurt the wind industry. Vestas has already laid off workers in its two Colorado manufacturing plants. Other firms around the country have either laid off workers or announced plans to do so unless the credit is extended. The longer Congress fools around with this, the more damage the industry will suffer. There are 75,000 jobs in the wind energy industry and 37,000 will disappear if the PTC dies.
The November election brings more uncertainty. Wind energy has doubled under the Obama Administration, but Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are generally opposed to green energy and extending the PTC. The industry may be waiting for the election to get some clarity about what the future of clean energy will be.
Conservative groups are fighting the incentive. Americans for Prosperity, partially funded by the billionaire Koch brothers, and 60 other right-leaning groups opposed the incentive in a letter sent to Congress last week according to “The Hill.” Their opposition is mostly due to the fact they are either engaged in the oil and gas business, or receive funding from oil interests. These same groups advocated keeping the 100-year old $4 billion dollar package of subsidies to oil companies.
The wind incentive is also still wrapped up in a broader, more complicated tax bill. Many lawmakers are holding out for federal tax code reform. There is a fat chance that will get done in this Congress.
The House is less likely to approve the credit than the Senate. The lower chamber has yet seriously debated the issue, making its passage before the election unlikely. The House is controlled by Republicans.
The incentive’s supporters will release reports and boost communication with lawmakers this week with the goal of getting a Senate vote. The NRDC will release two reports on the wind industry Tuesday. The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) will release a report Thursday on Atlantic offshore wind energy. Environment America and other organizations partnered in the report, NWF said.
Also, executives from health, environmental and energy organizations sent a letter to congressional leadership on Monday pushing for an extension to the PTC and offshore wind investment tax credit. Signatories included NRDC, Environmental Defense Club, Blue Green Alliance and Physicians for Social Responsibility, among others.
Despite the good efforts of these groups, they are facing a strong head wind. Perhaps it will take divine intervention to save this vital industry.