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Can GOP Freshmen Put Wind in Sails of Wind-Energy Tax Credit?



July 23, 2012

THE DALLES, Ore. - Columbia Gorge Community College, one of the first in the nation to train wind-energy technicians, is enrolling for its new semester. The school is relieved that a group of freshmen Republicans in Congress has written a letter asking GOP leaders to push for an extension of the Production Tax Credit for wind-energy producers. The credit is set to expire at the end of this year, and the wind industry says the uncertainty is taking its toll.

At the college, development director Dan Spatz agrees.

"We have seen, frankly, a downturn in the number of applicants for what has been an extremely promising program because the perception is out there that the nation is not behind renewable energy. We need to change that."

Spatz says when wind companies curtail their plans, employment and rural economic development suffer in Oregon, which is home to about 3,000 wind-related jobs.

The representatives say they do not support permanent tax credits, but would back another temporary extension. According to Spatz, that is part of a larger issue that reaches beyond election-year politics.

"It has been 5, 6, 7 years or longer where we've been going on year-to-year renewals, and we need to have more than that. Certainly, this is a tough year to get anything done, it appears, but I think it's deeper and broader than that. We need that bipartisan vision that really is separate from any election year."

Spatz says the public perception is that the nation has stalled in developing a long-range energy policy.

Phyllis Cuttino, Clean Energy Program director for Pew Environment Group, says keeping the industry in limbo does not make sense.

"Causing this kind of turmoil in a market is completely unnecessary. There've been really no new orders for wind, and that is going to have a significant impact on jobs."

The letter, signed by 18 members of Congress, says it needs to act quickly or wind-energy jobs will be lost. The letter states that, nationwide, the wind industry supports 75,000 jobs and nearly 500 manufacturing facilities.

The full text of the letter is at www.eenews.net.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR