Wind power

Allowing production-tax credit to expire would set back Colorado, clean energy

Absent congressional action, a federal wind-power-production tax credit will expire in December. With it will go a lot of good jobs and perhaps a burgeoning industry.

Congress should not allow that to happen. Wind power is no panacea, but it is clean, freely available energy using made-in-America technology. It should be a seen as a prized component of America’s energy mix – one worthy of encouragement.

Nascent technologies often need help to get established. And the wind-production credit could easily be offset by reducing the billions that subsidize fossil fuels.

The wind-production tax credit works out to about $22 for every megawatt-hour a wind farm produces. And experts fear its loss could have drastic repercussions. One estimate is that demand for wind turbines would fall off by 86 percent.

It may have already begun. Vestas Wind Systems said Monday it is cutting a fifth of its 450 jobs at a plant in Pueblo. The company said it is responding to a market weakened by Congress’ failure to renew the tax credit.

The concern is that Monday’s move was only the start. Vestas employs 1,700 people in Colorado at four plants. Colorado’s total wind-energy sector employs about 5,000. Nationwide, wind-energy employs about 75,000 people. With the end of the tax credit, some 37,000 of those jobs could be lost. Many of those are in well-paying manufacturing jobs. Others are in positions at the wind farms themselves – often in areas where jobs are scarce.

Wind energy has been a growth industry. A U.S. Department of Energy report said that in 2011, the United States produced enough wind-generated electricity to power 13 million homes. Colorado can now produce 11 percent of its electricity from wind.

Conventional partisan politics is not the hang up. Eight of Colorado’s nine-member congressional delegation favor extending the tax credit – including Republican Rep. Scott Tipton and Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet, both Democrats. Udall has taken the Senate floor 15 times to urge the credit’s renewal. He and Bennet have been working with Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., to extend it.

That bipartisan effort should be encouraged. Clean energy and good jobs is a combination worth fighting for.