WASHINGTON -- A new study commissioned by the American Wind Energy Association says that if the Production Tax Credit, a lifeline for the burgeoning wind industry, is allowed to expire as scheduled at the end of 2012, it would eliminate about 37,000 jobs, while an extension of the credit could save and create 54,000 jobs.
"No industry can take such a big shift in cost structure," Nathanael Greene, director of renewable energy policy for the Natural Resources Defense Council, told HuffPost. "And this is an industry that supports almost 100,000 jobs."
Greene said the NRDC is urging supporters of clean energy to lobby their members of Congress to support the renewable energy tax credit, as well as working with interest groups such as the American Wind Energy Association and other stakeholders to extend the credit.
According to the American Wind Energy Association,the United States now boasts more than 40,000 megawatts of land-based installed wind power, which is enough to serve almost 10 million homes and prevent nearly 84 million tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere each year. Wind power in the U.S. now represents more than 20 percent of the world's installed wind power.
Despite the growth of the industry, wind power is still reliant on tax credits and subsidies. The Production Tax Credit, first introduced in the 2009 stimulus package, is chief among them.
Since then, the credit has provided a benefit of 2.2 cents per kilowatt-hour for the first ten years of a renewable energy facility's operation. According to a report by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, in 2008, coal cost between 7 and 14 cents per kilowatt-hour and wind between 4 and 9 cents. The tax credit helps drive down the cost of renewable energies, making it easier for them to compete with traditional energy sources.
Greene said that the job growth in the renewable energy sector warrants further investment, citing a report by Environmental Entrepreneurs, a community of business leaders who promote sound environmental policy, that showed 36,000 clean energy jobs could be created in just 6 weeks.
Greene added, "This has really been an under-reported bright spot of our economy over the last three or four years now, while the economy has been in recession and jobs have been lost in most sectors. Clean energy sectors have added jobs, and added jobs much faster than the rest of the economy."
Opponents of wind energy contend that the wind turbines can negatively affect birds' migration patterns.
Newsobserver.com first reported that a San Francisco-based energy company, Pattern Energy Group LP, recently decided to abandon a project due to concerns over bird migration patterns.
"This would have been a strong source of wind power for California, which needs more renewable energy, but the right thing to do is abandon this project," said company CEO Mike Garland.
Greene noted that environmental concerns are inevitable with any large-scale project and defended the wind industry's environmental record.
"Any manmade development, whether it's a shopping mall, highway, natural gas well or wind turbine is going to have some environmental impact," he said. "The wind industry has done a remarkable job over the last 20 years of really getting a handle on 'what are the environmental impacts?' and 'how do you go out and find local experts on bird populations and migration patterns?' and doing it all fairly well. It's never going to be perfect."