Michigan's Wind Energy Jobs Stalled in Congress
LANSING, Mich. - Thousands of Michiganders hold jobs in the wind energy industry; they work for more than 30 companies that make parts for the wind turbines that create clean energy, and they build some of the turbines as well. But wind energy proponents are afraid those jobs will dwindle if the wind energy tax credit is allowed to expire at the end of the year.
So far, efforts to extend the credit have failed. Some blame election year gridlock; others blame low natural gas prices for reducing the interest in wind. Don Schurr, president of Greater Gratiot Development, a non-profit that works on economic development in Michigan, says that's short-term thinking, especially since new technologies are making wind energy more affordable.
"Wind energy and natural gas will have a relative parity. If we don't make the stuff here, they're going to bring it in from China. They're going to bring it in from wherever it's necessary. Why don't we do it?"
Gratiot County is home to more than 100 wind turbines and many more are planned.
Michigan's U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow last month added a wind energy tax credit amendment to a transportation bill, but that failed. A bipartisan group of senators plans to push for the extension again when they return from the Easter recess.
The National Governors Association has sent a letter to Congressional leaders supporting a four-year extension of the credit. Schurr says it would be good for farmers who use their land for wind energy and people who need jobs.
"That would be of great benefit to the farmers who have them; the tax base here that is significantly enhanced, but our manufacturing opportunities also."
Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, who authored the first-ever wind energy tax credit, is co-sponsoring a bipartisan bill to extend it for two years.
"And I hope we can get it passed pretty soon, because I think in a month or two you're going to start seeing some layoffs. Because nobody's going to build for inventory; if we don't have the tax credit, we may not have a whole lot of turbines put up."
Some opponents say wind energy should make it on its own without a tax credit. Proponents say as the technology advances, the need for the credit will disappear.
The American Wind Energy Association says failing to extend the credit would kill 37,000 jobs nationwide.
The legislation to extend the tax credit is called the American Energy and Job Promotion Act (S.2201).