At any moment Congress will decide whether to extend the production tax credit, which gives wind power producers a 2.2 cent tax credit for every kilowatt hour of power they produce.
Among those urging extension are some of America's biggest brands and largest purchasers of wind and other renewably sourced energy. This week, 15 of them, including Starbucks, Staples, Nike, Levi Strauss & Co., Campbell Soup Co. and Yahoo!, wrote to Congressional leaders urging extension of the PTC. Some of these companies already get more than half their energy from renewables; Starbucks' goal is to source 100 percent of its energy from renewables in two years.
"The PTC has enabled the wind industry to slash wind energy costs -- 90 percent since 1980 -- a big reason why companies like ours are buying increasing amounts of wind energy," the letter states.
Made in America renewable energy, such as wind, is highly attractive to U.S. companies for whom managing energy costs is a high priority. Sources of foreign oil are unreliable, as is the price: With every international crisis, especially in the volatile Middle East, the cost of a barrel of oil soars. By making domestic renewables part of their energy portfolio, American companies help stabilize their marginal costs of energy which is good for their bottom line, for the economy, and for American jobs.
Unless Congress acts the PTC will expire at the end of the year and many wind turbines will stop spinning and many more will never be built. Development of this clean, renewable, domestic energy source has accelerated since the PTC was last put in place in 2005, adding 47,000 megawatts of new capacity and accounting for $60 billion in private investment and 35 percent of the new electrical generation capacity developed in the U.S. over the past four years.
With the country in desperate need of domestically produced affordable clean energy to reduce emissions that are causing climate change, wean us from our dependence on foreign oil and fuel our economy, you'd think renewing the PTC would be a no-brainer. But Washington being Washington, think again.
The PTC has strong support, even from many staunch Republicans such as Governors Terry Branstad of Iowa and Sam Brownback of Kansas, whose states are leaders in wind energy production and development. Even the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has fought fiercely against any efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, backs the PTC. Yet, there is opposition, particularly from Tea Party-affiliated members of Congress, who oppose all federal investments in energy production. Passage of the PTC extension is not assured.
The economic fallout from failure to extend the PTC would be substantial. The wind power industry would lose an estimated 40,000 jobs and be stopped in its tracks, signaling U.S. readiness to cede the $6 trillion clean energy business opportunity to China and Europe. The United States heavily subsidizes oil, gas and coal production to the tune of tens of billions of dollars, even as oil companies rake in record profits. So, while others are investing heavily to build the 21st-century clean energy economy, the U.S. is still busy trying to sustain the 19th- and 20th-century fossil fuel economy. Guess how that will turn out.
To compete with the fossil fuel giants, wind producers need a more level playing field, and that's what the PTC does. It's time to keep the wind at our back by passing the extension of the PTC.