On wind energy, jobs and hot air

Wind turbine blades from the Siemens Energy blade factory in Fort Madison. (PRNewsFoto/Siemens Energy)
Wind turbine blades from the Siemens Energy blade factory in Fort Madison. (PRNewsFoto/Siemens Energy)

As anyone who has ever had one can tell you, all jobs are not the same.

That’s why last week’s announcement that Iowa will lose 407 wind-turbine-blade factory jobs is a bigger loss than even the numbers would suggest.

More than a loss for those 407 workers and their families, for the businesses they frequent and the banks who hold their loans.

They’re a loss for the state, which has invested a lot of time and energy into the emerging wind power industry. An investment that — until now, at least — has paid big dividends. They’re a loss in the fight to make our country more energy independent.

And they might not be the last we lose if Congress doesn’t get behind an extension of the federal wind energy tax credit.

Wind energy equipment manufacturer Siemens Energy Inc.’s announcement that it will lay off one-third of its U.S. workforce — 615 wind workers in Iowa, Kansas and Florida — is only the latest caused, at least in part, because Congress has declined to extend the credit.

The wind energy industry has grown furiously in the past few years, thanks in large part to the incentive, originally authored by Sen. Chuck Grassley. But now wind industry spokespeople say congressional inaction has helped create an uncertain market and a depressed demand for their product.

And while Grassley recently has tried to blame Democratic leadership for congressional foot-dragging, it’s his own party’s schizophrenic response that’s got everything stalled.


Republican opponents to the tax break, including presidential candidate Mitt Romney, have called it nothing more than a corporate giveaway for “Big Wind.” Even setting aside their dizzying doublespeak (apparently, tax incentives work for their friends, but not for the other guys’ friends), it’s opponents of the credit who are blowing hot air.

The Gazette’s own fact-checkers vetted President Barack Obama’s claims that the wind energy industry supports at least 37,000 jobs nationwide and 7,000 jobs in Iowa — a number also cited by our own Gov. Terry Branstad — and found them to be fair estimates. In a Smell Test article that ran last Sunday (you can find Gazette fact checks online, too), they rated the bipartisan claim as mostly true. And in their research, Gazette fact checkers spoke to experts who warn as many as 3,000 Iowans may be out of work if the tax credit isn’t extended.

Clearly, it’s too soon to cut the cord on wind. We’ve got far too much left to gain — or lose.

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