Vets group promotes wind tax credit ahead of extenders hearing

Source: Nick Juliano, E&E reporter • Posted: Thursday, April 26, 2012

With a key House committee set to begin today considering whether to extend a key wind energy tax break that expires at the end of the year, a veterans group is pointing to the role renewable energy plays keeping the lights on at remote bases in war zones and providing jobs to veterans when they return home.

A Ways and Means subcommittee meets this morning to consider proposed legislation that would extend a variety of temporary tax provisions scheduled to expire at the end of this year, including the production tax credit (PTC) for wind, which has been a key focus for renewable energy backers on and off Capitol Hill.

Veterans organized by the group Operation Free, which promotes clean energy development, shared stories of protecting fuel convoys shipping diesel to forward operating bases for power generators. Such operations are a dangerous requirement of operating in a war zone and can be minimized with increased military use of micro wind turbines and solar panels, and advances in such technologies are dependent on continued federal support for renewable energy in the United States, the advocates argued.

“It’s not about saving the polar bears; it’s not about being green. What it’s about is making sure that this great nation of ours has the capability to defend itself and that we ensure that those people that we ask to go out and put their lives on the line have everything they need to be successful,” said John Castellaw, a retired Marine lieutenant general, during a press conference on Capitol Hill yesterday.

“So it is … a necessity that we come here today to press the legislature to extend this credit for wind power and that we move on to make sure that as a nation we maintain the need in alternative energy and renewable energy,” Castellaw added.

Jeff Duff, president of Airstreams Renewables, said his company has trained about 180 veterans in the last few years and placed about 85 percent of its program graduates into jobs within the wind industry. He said companies that hire his program’s graduates plan to cut their hiring demand by as much as 90 percent next year if the wind PTC is not extended.

Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.), a member of the Ways and Means Committee and an Army veteran, also appeared at yesterday’s event urging the need for a PTC extension as a critical component of broader energy policy changes that are needed to expand renewable energy.

“Already, folks are laying people off, and we can’t have that in the economic environment we’re in,” he said.

The American Wind Energy Association commissioned a study last year that found an expiration of the PTC would cause 37,000 jobs in the industry to be lost next year.

Thompson is one of 93 co-sponsors of a bipartisan bill from Reps. Dave Reichert (R-Wash.) and Earl Blumenthal (D-Ore.) that would extend the PTC for wind and other renewable sources through 2016. He said he would speak in favor of the bill during today’s hearing but doubted that a tax extenders bill would be enacted before the lame-duck session after Election Day.

Another of the bill’s Republican supporters, Iowa Rep. Steve King, said he would speak on its behalf today. Speaking to reporters off the House floor yesterday evening, he said he would promote the national security benefits of renewable energy as a reason to extend the tax credit.

“When people say it’s subsidizing wind, I say then you have to charge … the carrier, the battle group, the bullet-proof vest, the M4s, all of that military that goes over to the Middle East to protect our interests — that’s also a cost of keeping energy in the United States,” King said. “So if you want to measure against wind or some of the other renewable energies that you have, you also have to measure the foreign power projection necessary to replace it.”

Today’s hearing will also feature opponents of tax credit extensions, such as Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.), who has sponsored a bill that would eliminate the PTC and a bevy of other energy tax breaks, including some that apply to fossil fuels.