The Smell Test: Wind energy job claims

Do candidates' claims add up?

President Obama has talked up a storm about his Republican challenger’s lack of support for extending the Production Tax Credit that the wind energy industry says has spurred rapid growth of U.S. jobs and manufacturing since 2005. Mitt Romney’s campaign has argued the tax rebate is a giveaway to corporations and doesn’t solve our energy problems.

During an appearance in Iowa last month, Obama said there are “37,000 jobs across this country that depend on wind energy — including 7,000 jobs in Iowa, more than in any other state.”

Republican Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad uses the same number, which his spokesman said comes from the state and wind energy associations.

We wondered how accurate those job estimates are and how they’re determined. After all, Iowa is the No. 2 wind energy-producing state in the nation.

On its website the American Wind Energy Association says between 6,000 and 7,000 Iowans work in more than 200 companies in the wind energy industry. Neither the AWEA nor Harold Prior, executive director of the Iowa Wind Energy Association, have a hard count of such jobs in Iowa, but are confident of their estimates based on quarterly reports from the industry.

Those jobs include companies manufacturing the major components: blades, towers and engine parts. The figure also includes those involved in operation and maintenance of the 2,925 wind turbines operating in Iowa. The number also includes indirect jobs — truckers hauling blades to a wind farm, people making bolts and other materials used by both the supply chain companies and the major component manufacturers.

It does not include induced jobs, such as the cafe that pops up next to a new turbine manufacturer, according to AWEA. The count includes 27 discreet occupations, Prior said.

The AWEA’s count of at least 85,000 Americans employed in the wind power industry and related fields is more than double the number Obama cited.

Although the tax credit doesn’t expire until the end of the year, Prior said the impact already is being seen. He and other industry executives warn as many as 3,000 Iowans may lose their jobs if the tax credit is not extended.

It’s not just the larger companies, such as Clipper Windpower in Cedar Rapids, that are affected. So, too, are smaller firms such as Anemometry Specialists, Inc., in Alta that makes gauges to measure wind speed at prospective wind farms, Prior said.


While the figures cited by the wind energy industry and politicians are inexact and fluid, they’re the best available information. The U.S. Bureau of Labor also relies primarily on the industry’s information. We found no evidence that these figures are misleading, but keep in mind these are estimates.

We rate the jobs claims mostly true.

— Reported and written by James Q. Lynch, confirmed and edited by Jeff Tecklenburg.


American Wind Energy Association

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