Commentary: Nothing partisan about renewing American wind power incentives

Source: By New Bedford, Mass. Mayor Jon Mitchell (D) and Virginia Beach, Va. Mayor Will Sessoms, The • Posted: Wednesday, June 11, 2014

At a time when Congress needs to demonstrate to the American people that it can still get important things done, it has a unique opportunity to do exactly that by renewing its commitment to critical wind energy incentives. We urge the Senate to pass its package of tax incentives that includes key credits for renewable energy. In doing so, Congress can show it is still focused on priorities that matter most to the public—encouraging the creation of good-paying jobs and spurring private sector investment.

As mayors of New Bedford, Massachusetts and Virginia Beach, Virginia, a Democrat and a Republican, we are not interested in partisan politics. We believe that effective job-creation strategies are critical for our cities to remain good places to work, live and raise families. We also believe that our local economies, and those of other communities from coast to coast, are primed to become the beneficiaries of thousands of new jobs from a new national renewable energy industry that has the capacity to power millions of homes – offshore wind.

Simply put, the offshore wind opportunity is real and we cannot afford to miss it.

With Congress advancing bipartisan, job-creating tax incentives, cities big and small across the country can experience the economic development benefits of the offshore wind industry. These jobs are already becoming a reality in the City of New Bedford. In the 19th century, New Bedford was the whaling capital of the world, and residents sailed to the far reaches of every ocean in a hunt for energy. Today, New Bedford is working to reclaim its title as “The City that Lit the World” by aggressively pursuing opportunities in the emerging American offshore wind industry.

A forward-looking state investment has made New Bedford, the nation’s top-grossing fishing port, the new home of the nation’s first purpose-built marine terminal for offshore wind, and the entire community has undertaken a concerted effort to prepare students, workforce and businesses for the green energy jobs of the future. Terminal construction has already created nearly 100 jobs. New Bedford is ramping up its preparations to stage the nation’s first off shore wind project, Cape Wind. And the City is doing the long-term strategic planning necessary to maximize our role in the generation of offshore wind projects to follow Cape Wind.

In short, New Bedford is doing everything it can to position itself as an ideal location for the industry to build its future. What it needs is a federal government partner.

Virginia Beach is likewise seizing the offshore wind opportunity. The Navy has given its assurance that properly-placed turbines can go hand-in-hand with critical military operations off the coast.

The Hampton Roads area has the largest concentration of military bases and facilities of any metropolitan area in the world. The area is also home to the nation’s largest shipbuilding industry – an industry well versed in producing the materials that can weather the rugged marine environment where offshore wind turbines will be erected.

Both New Bedford and Virginia Beach have the know-how and skilled workforces that can make them manufacturing hubs for the over 8,000 parts in a wind turbine. Offshore wind energy can preserve the traditions that have made both communities special while strengthening our economy, energy security, and natural resources for future generations. And we are very anxious to get started.

European and Asian observers are scratching their heads wondering why we are not seizing this opportunity. Over the course of two decades European leaders have installed more than 2,000 offshore wind turbines that provide clean renewable energy to millions of homes and businesses – while supporting nearly 60,000 jobs. China and Japan have offshore wind projects online, with big plans for future development.

The hardworking men and women of our communities deserve the same opportunities for good paying jobs. Our children, our wildlife, and future generations of both deserve clean air and clean water. There is nothing partisan about any of this.

Renewing incentives for offshore wind power will provide the financial stability our federal government has historically offered to many emerging industries. The private sector needs predictability to justify the billions of dollars in investment that will bring America’s offshore wind power opportunities to fruition – including, most importantly, the tens of thousands of manufacturing and maritime jobs that will keep it running. That’s where New Bedford and Virginia Beach come in.

Congress, let’s put our cities to work building a cleaner future, and let’s start today.