By Jennifer Granholm, POLITICO
Last Friday when the Bureau of Labor Statistics released the newest jobs report, the Republicans were quick to seize on those numbers as proof that President Barack Obama’s policies aren’t working. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) astutely observed that “unemployment is still too high.”
Mr. Speaker, of course you are right: We do need to create more jobs. So guess what — this is your lucky day. There’s one sector of the American economy that is losing jobs as we speak — and you can put a stop to it.
One simple solution is to pass the legislation that helps large-scale wind-energy producers compete against heavily subsidized fossil fuel. The Production Tax Credit has bipartisan support in Congress. It has the full support of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
A nonpartisan coalition of 369 organizations, representing thousands of American workers and millions of constituents, recently sent the speaker a letter pleading with him to act. The National Governor’s Association sent Boehner another letter just in the past week, imploring him to move on this issue. In Congress, 20 Republican House members co-sponsored a bill, and legislation introduced in March by seven senators included three Republicans.
The bill provides 2.2 cents per kilowatt hour for utility-scale wind-power producers. Ironically, U.S. wind energy production is the sector where Boehner’s home state of Ohio has the distinction of being the fastest growing in the country.
As a former Michigan governor, it kills me when Ohio beats Michigan at anything — but especially in wind energy job growth.
Unfortunately for Ohio, its national distinction is about to end. Congress originally passed this tax credit in 1992, and has renewed with bipartisan support numerous times. But it is due to expire at the end of this year.
It’s the original baby of Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa). Congress has all the political cover it needs. Yet there has been no action. Repeated attempts to extend the credit have been met with nothing but obstruction from House Republicans.
And the dominoes are starting to fall.
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, for one, had planned to open a $100-million manufacturing plant in Missouri. It was going to produce up to 400 full-time jobs on-site. Those jobs, in turn, would support countless others in the community — not to mention the jobs that produce the raw materials needed for manufacturing in the first place. They have put the plant on hold for now until Boehner can move his caucus to take action.
Vestas has two factories that make parts in Colorado. They are threatening to lay-off 1,600 U.S. workers if Congress doesn’t move quickly to save those jobs.
In Illinois alone, more than 150 companies are depending on you to make a decision, Mr. Speaker, and 67 of those are manufacturers. There is $1 billion in investment planned for projects is now in doubt, and either Congress can act, or those companies are going to start to put their workers on the unemployment line.
I’m sure Boehner is proud that Ohio saw a whopping 900 percent growth for new installations of wind power in 2011. More than 50 manufacturing companies for wind components are located there, and the industry supports thousands of Ohio jobs. Fantastic, right?
Except the country could lose 37,000 wind-related jobs unless Congress takes action immediately. Boehner has repeatedly hounded the president about an all-of-the-above energy strategy. So it seems weird for Republicans to be picking energy “winners and losers.” How is it that they can vote to extend tax credits for oil but not for wind?
And how is it that Republicans can complain that we haven’t created enough jobs, and yet refuse to take this one simple action that would create jobs?
Now, before you point to the deficit and say that we can’t afford it — and before I point out the cost of the oil subsidies — let’s put those tax credit numbers on the table. John Graham, chief executive officer of BP Wind Energy, said this tax credit costs the government $3.5 billion a year — but attracts $15 to $20 billion in investment. Sixty percent of wind turbine parts are now made in the U.S., thanks to the production tax credit. The return is well worth what we spend.
And what about the last time this credit lapsed? In 1999, 2001 and 2003, Congress did not act. New construction plunged from 73 percent to 93 percent the following years – – and thousands of potential jobs were lost.
Now that the current credit is in jeopardy of expiring, plans for 2013 have come to a halt. Layoffs are imminent, if not happening already. As Boehner has said repeatedly, “businesses need certainty” and time to develop their plans.
But because congressional Republicans are dragging their feet, businesses are looking elsewhere. Dan McDevitt, vice president of operations at the wind turbine manufacturer Nordex, now says that they will be looking at Canada, Mexico and Latin America for their products.
Do the Republicans in Congress want to be responsible for sending these jobs out of the country?
A recent Pew poll shows that a bipartisan majority of Americans want to see our country invest in renewable energy — even after the attempts to manufacture scandals surrounding Solyndra. Boehner’s colleague, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), has admitted that Republicans are using the controversy surrounding clean energy as a campaign issue. “Ultimately, we’ll stop it on Election Day,” Jordan said, “hopefully.”
You can stop it now, Mr. Speaker. You can save these jobs, as well as create new ones. Do it for Ohio. Do it for America.
And if you don’t, well, perhaps the American people will remember that. Ultimately, they are the ones who can “stop it on Election Day,” by voting out those who would obstruct job creation for political purposes.
Then maybe our nation can move forward in creating clean energy jobs — with a new majority in Congress.