President Obama recently visited Iowa to push for an extension of the Production Tax Credit for wind energy. I was reminded of America's wealth of resources and innovative minds that can secure our nation's safety and competiveness for the rest of this century. As a combat veteran, I am trained to also consider the security risks of not embracing a new and more effective way forward. Where our energy sources are concerned, those risks are higher than you might think.
During my time serving in Iraq, I experienced first-hand how troops are forced to expose themselves to danger in order to replenish their fuel supply. And recent statistics show that for every 24 convoys that set out in Afghanistan, a soldier is killed or injured. The threat back home certainly isn't as immediate, but our collective addiction to fossil fuels is keeping true independence, freedom and security just out of our reach.
The key to breaking free from that dependence lies in policies like the Production Tax Credit (PTC), which has helped wind energy become the second-fastest growing source of power in the U.S. That growth translates into jobs. In fact, the wind industry's share of American jobs is growing too. Sixty percent of a wind turbine's components are now produced in the United States, compared to 25 percent in 2005. That's in addition to all the installation and maintenance jobs.
But the PTC is at risk of expiring if Congress doesn't act to extend it. While Congress drags its heels, the military is already working to reduce its energy impact and increase the portion of its energy that comes from renewable sources.
In Arizona, for instance, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base (AFB) is building a solar project big enough to meet 35 percent of the base's energy needs. In California, Edwards Air Force Base (AFB) is in the process of installing a solar system that will meet 10 percent of the base's energy needs. In Barstow, where I was once stationed, the Marine Corps has solar and a 1.5 MW wind turbine that produces over 60 percent of the bases energy. Some bases, like Dyess AFB in Texas and Fairchild AFB in Washington, now produce 100 percent of their energy needs from wind or other renewable energy power sources.
Outside the military, the PTC policy is already helping to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and it's working for three reasons:
One: You get paid for the power you generate, after you generate it. If you don't produce any energy, you don't get a tax break.
Two: Wind energy is 90 percent cheaper than in 1980, 10 times greater than in 1992 and with more than 60 percent of the parts made in America the wind energy sector is projected to create 100,000 jobs over the next four years.
Three: It's not left; it's not right; it's forward. The Production Tax Credit already has bipartisan support, making it a viable policy for the future.
Without the Production Tax Credit, we won't just stand still, we'll go backwards, losing our competitive advantage as other countries forge ahead. Even the possibility of scrapping this policy has a dampening effect on private investors. In fact, many American manufacturers are already reducing their workforce due to lack of action in Congress.
There's no half way here. We're either all in or we're stalling. Our military knows how to commit to and execute a plan. Let our elected leaders apply that same focus and determination to their governing by supporting the extension of the Production Tax Credit, laying the foundation for a secure, independent America.
Mario Rivas served two deployments of Operation Iraqi Freedom in United States Marine Corps. He now serves in the California Army National Guard as a Captain and company commander. He is an alumnus of the Veterans Leadership Academy at the Truman National Security Project.