Wind energy PTC builds industry, jobs, economy in Oregon

When the PTC has expired in the past, new installations dropped by more than 90 percent, and the wind industry is predicting as many as 37,000 lost jobs should the PTC be allowed to expire again.

Layoffs are already happening because of the uncertainty around the PTC, and they are already affecting Oregon.

An Oregonian editorial recently asked: Why not let the wind tax credit expire? (Aug. 28)

The answer: Letting the wind energy production tax credit die will hurt our economy, environment, energy needs and security at the local, state and national levels.

Just look at what wind energy has done in Oregon. According to the Renewable Northwest Project, a renewable energy trade association, wind companies have invested more than $4.5 billion in Oregon. Wind energy is supporting 3,000 Oregon jobs and is providing millions in tax revenues for schools and public safety. Oregon’s wind energy industry is also helping farmers and ranchers survive difficult economic times in rural communities.

Nationally, the wind industry estimates that wind energy supports 75,000 jobs and, in 2011, new wind energy installations accounted for $14 billion in investment.

The PTC has been critical to wind energy’s success and continues to act as a job and investment multiplier. The Oregonian argues that because of a temporary spike in cheap natural gas, the PTC should be allowed to expire. Leaving aside the numerous negative environmental impacts of the hydraulic fracking of natural gas, the editorial fails to mention that all energy sources are subsidized. From natural gas, to nuclear to hydro and beyond, the taxpayers are underwriting all forms of energy development.

Compared with the longstanding subsidies for fossil fuels, subsides for the wind industry are young and relatively short-lived. It takes time to fully develop new energy technologies, and the PTC and other subsidies exist to facilitate that development. Suggesting that temporary, renewable energy policies should expire while allowing permanent fossil-fuel subsidies to live on is not a sustainable solution to develop a long-term and secure energy policy for our country. Wind energy, like all energy sectors, will always be in competition with other power sources. We need to give wind energy time to become fully self-sufficient, a goal the industry is working toward and not far from achieving.

I would suggest to those who think now is the right economic time to cripple an American industry and trigger the loss of tens of thousands of American jobs that they need to re-examine their sense of timing. Unsustainable fuel sources are not an answer, keeping your fingers crossed for new technologies is not responsible, and advocating for the expiration of a program that continues to provide for Oregon families, businesses, communities and the state economy is reckless.

The facts are clear: Wind energy is an important economic driver for Oregon and the United States and an important piece in building, diversifying and securing our energy future. The PTC still has a role to play in helping the wind energy industry reach self-sufficiency, and it should be renewed.

Bill Bradbury, a former Oregon secretary of state, is a member of the Northwest Power and Conservation Council.