With a still coughing and wheezing economy, trying desperately to steady itself on shaky legs, another blow to our employment ranks now is the last thing we need — especially in North Carolina.
But that’s what could unfold if Congress doesn’t extend the wind Production Tax Credit (PTC), set to expire at the end of this year, according to the Southeastern Coastal Wind Coalition.
The coalition says the wind that blows across North Carolina supports 3,000 jobs in the state, and those jobs could be in jeopardy if Congress does not extend the special tax credit.
“When you have uncertainty in what tax policy is going to be, that prevents developers from making decisions, and when developers can’t make decisions then suppliers can’t make decisions, and it slows down the whole economy,” said Brian O’Hara, president of the coalition.
The protection of all jobs should be paramount for federal, state and local lawmakers in these uncertain financial times. The protection of new energy jobs, as these are, adds to the urgency.
The fate of the wind Production Tax Credit would impact thousands, when the entire country is considered. The American Wind Energy Association is warning that 37,000 jobs could be lost nationwide if the PTC is not extended. Phyllis Cuttino, director of the Pew Environment Group’s Clean Energy Program, said keeping the industry in limbo doesn’t make sense.
“Causing this kind of turmoil and uncertainty in a market is completely unnecessary. There’ve been really no new orders for wind, and that is going to have a significant impact on jobs,” Cuttino said.
O’Hara said he believes the role the wind industry plays in the economy isn’t fully understood.
“A lot of lawmakers don’t realize the economic impact that the wind industry has in the southeast. This region is a great example of a collection of states that has a very attractive environment for manufacturing and benefits from this industry,” said O’Hara.
Although Congress has until year’s end to make a decision on the tax credit, members of both parties are pushing them to act quickly since companies already are slowing production in anticipation it may not be renewed. O’Hara said there’s bipartisan support for the credit, but there also are calls to let it expire.
The latest employment figures are out for North Carolina and they are promising, say state officials.
Unemployment rates rose in 84 of North Carolina’s 100 counties in June, fell in 11 and were unchanged in five. However, when compared to the same month last year, unemployment rates declined in 91 counties, increased in six, and remained the same in three.
“Over-the-year numbers are showing a positive trend compared to the June numbers,” said N.C. Department of Commerce Deputy Secretary Dale Carroll. “Since June of last year, rates are down in nearly all of North Carolina’s 100 counties. Job announcements continue to be made across our state and we remain focused on getting people back to work.”
On Thursday, the U.S. Senate Finance Committee passed a bill that would extend the tax break for wind energy production.
“Passing the wind production tax credit is one of the most important steps Congress can take this year to re-energize our economy, create jobs and pursue true energy security,” said Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo.
Let’s work for even more promising employment prospects, here in North Carolina and nationwide. All of Congress needs to move on extending the tax credit. The loss of thousands of jobs is unthinkable.