Congress should preserve wind industry jobs

According to the American Wind Energy Association, at the height of the wind energy sector’s expansion in 2008 and 2009, wind turbine manufacturing employment peaked at more than 85,000 jobs at large turbine assembly plants and smaller manufacturers constructing related components for turbine assembly and operation.

Sadly, since that time approximately 10,000 of those jobs have disappeared. On top of stiff competition from Chinese manufacturers with generous state subsidies and cheap labor costs, the industry faces the expiration of the federal Production Tax Credit at the end of this year. The credit provides a 2.2 cent per kilowatt-hour tax incentive to wind energy producers.

Congress has repeatedly renewed the credit with bipartisan support. But in 2012 renewal became a political football, stalling Congressional action despite broad public support and support among policymakers, including many of the nation’s Governors.

Wind turbine manufacturers have made great strides toward increasing manufacturing and operational efficiency and the industry has created quality jobs, paying over $30,000 annually for assemblers to nearly $100,000 for engineers, according the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Moreover, communities from Fargo, North Dakota to Fairless Hills, Pennsylvania and from Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma to Florida and Washington have jobs at stake. The Production Tax Credit has enjoyed bipartisan support for two decades and the Senate Finance Committee has approved an extension. Congress should act during the lame-duck session to renew the credit and preserve the wind energy jobs that are so crucial to America’s rural cities and small towns.

The Center for Rural Affairs was established in 1973 as an unaffiliated nonprofit corporation under IRS code 501(c)3. The Center for Rural Affairs was formed by rural Nebraskans concerned about family farms and rural communities, and we work to strengthen small businesses, family farms and ranches, and rural communities.