When the only organization who thinks continued funding of your technology is the United Steelworkers union, you may have a business problem.
Gamesa Wind Corporation has announced a layoff of 165 workers at plants in Fairless Hills and Ebensburg, Pa. The United Steelworkers (USW) says non-renewal of the the Production Tax Credit (PTC), which expires on December 31st, 2012, is the problem.
"The PTC is vital to creating a strong U.S. renewables market with clean energy manufacturing jobs," said USW International President Leo W. Gerard. "Without it, there is little incentive for existing U.S. wind manufacturers to keep doing business here. Nor is there any incentive for other wind manufacturers to invest in the domestic wind sector."
There are two reasons is it is not attractive for the wind sector in America. One reason is that when green energy companies try to build in America, and don't use union employees and therefore eliminate themselves from being competitive, they get bogged down in greenmail lawsuits. The second reason is that people of 700 years ago knew wind power was not viable and we haven't gotten any smarter.
The PTC costs $4.1 billion over 10 years and includes other renewable schemes like geothermal power. Energy companies receive 2.2 cents per kilowatt-hour generated from taxpayers - but only once turbines are producing power so it is already a better program than solar energy sinkholes. It's not the worst thing we fund but wind power is never going to take off anywhere and certainly geothermal will not work in America.
The USW only care about wind power because Gamesa used the right employees, not because the union, with a million members in areas as odd as flight attendants and travel agencies, thinks wind vanes are going to save the planet or America. Wind is an artificial market, propped up by the government - it would not exist without government largess. The PTC has died before and the industry collapsed with it. Gamesa has no orders for its products in 2013.
"Long-term extension of the PTC is absolutely necessary to allow the U.S. wind sector the time it needs to grow, so it can compete with other clean energy sectors and other nations," said USW International Vice President Tom Conway.
20 years is not long enough time? This is about a job works program, not clean energy or American economic strength.
Despite the perception that Democrats are in the pocket of unions, President Obama has tried to stand up to them in the past. During his presidential honeymoon period, he advocated merit pay for teachers, before recently gutting No Child Left Behind, and its attempts at standards and accountability, to placate the education unions. And Republicans are not anti-union. The credit expired seven times in 10 years and a Republican Congress brought it back to life most of those times. PTC has been blocked this year because Democratic sponsors have attached what many on both sides of the aisle regard as a reasonable idea to larger, unfunded pork barrel projects.
We're going to hear the usual nonsense about how 'investment' will follow if this tax credit is renewed. If investment only happens when the government is behind it, the program is likely not very good. As I said, while it isn't great, it isn't the worst thing we waste money on. They only get money if they can get the plants built, unlike the fiascoes in solar power the Department of Energy has saddled us with. $4 billion is still something to think about because if energy companies that employ hundreds of thousands of people are called tax dodgers for getting a credit to remain viable in America, it isn't right to give it to other companies that make no money and would collapse without taxpayers - but happen to be pet projects of the administration and unions.
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