WASHINGTON, D.C. – With election bantering behind them, Congress came back this week with a new sense of optimism for the remaining lame-duck session.
Crisp autumn weather has finally descended on Washington, and there might be some change in the wind on the Hill. Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., spoke about the need to pass the production tax credit for wind energy this week.
The Senate bill, sponsored by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, extends the tax credit for renewable or alternative-energy industries such as solar, hydropower and wind through 2014.
The Senate Finance Committee approved extension of the credit in August, which is expected to cost $12 billion over the next ten years. The bill in the House however, extends the tax credit through 2016.
Prior to the Solyndra scandal, many Republicans, including then-candidate Mitt Romney, supported wind energy. However, the issue became increasingly polarized throughout the election.
In the meantime, while both bills sit in the two chambers, the wind industry has grown anxious. With the renewal of the credit up in the air, several wind-energy companies including Siemens and the Colorado-based Vestas cut jobs.
At the end of October, Vestas made its largest cuts in Windsor, outside of Greeley, laying off 200 employees, nearly 30 percent of its workforce.
According to a September article in The New York Times, wind companies have laid off 1,700 employees in the previous months. The industry prospered in 2008 and 2009 with help from the stimulus package, but the combination of dwindling stimulus money for subsidies and cheaper Chinese competitors contributed to wind energy’s downfall.
Hickenlooper was among 28 other governors in the bipartisan Governor’s Wind Coalition to hold a news conference on Monday to press the extension of the tax credit. Speaking by telephone, Hickenlooper cited Colorado’s expansion in wind energy during the last decade from 50 to 2,000 megawatts.
Udall on Wednesday delivered his 20th address to the Senate on the tax credit.
“Wind energy has helped free us from foreign sources,” he said.
Udall recently was targeted by another energy group, American Petroleum Institute, asking for his support of natural-gas and oil tax breaks. In March, Udall voted to repeal these types of tax breaks. When asked about the new ads and tax breaks, Udall did not single out a particular industry.
“I’m for an all of the above energy strategy,” Udall said. “I also want to have as level a playing field when it comes to energy incentives, to have all the energy types compete fairly: oil and gas, nuclear, renewables”
While Udall noted the expanding U.S. fossil fuel economy, he favored incentives for renewables.
“I believe that mature industries need less help than emerging industries, which is why I’ve really focused on ensuring the production tax cut for wind,” Udall said.
Leigh Giangreco is an intern for The Durango Herald and a student at American University in Washington, D.C. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.