A wind turbine maker in Grand Forks, North Dakota, recently announced it would eliminate 300 jobs in that city due to flat demand for wind power projects in the United States. Just days after announcing it would hand out 300 pink slips, LM Wind Power announced it is creating 300 new jobs in Brazil – where demand for wind energy is skyrocketing.
I also recently wrote about other alternative energy programs that are either dying or on life support. One example is Xcel Energy’s attempt (recently thwarted) to end its popular solar power program, and another is Silicon Energy, a solar panel maker in northern Minnesota that is on the verge of bankruptcy just one year after starting up. (See my story HERE)
Of course, Conservative politicians have been having a hay-day gloating over the demise of such famous failures as Solyndra, Fisker, Tesla and Ener1, hanging these examples like stones of shame around the neck of President Obama.
So both wind and solar continue to struggle for market share under the domestic formula for energy policy while the U.S. continues to drill for oil, frack for gas and strip mine for coal, seemingly determined to remain mired in the past with environmentally dirty and nonrenewable fossil fuels.
Not so in Brazil – here is a country that actually learned something from the oil crisis of the 1970s. At that time, Brazil invested heavily into biofuels and hydroelectricity. But recent droughts in Brazil have had a devastating effect on its hydro-plants ability to generate power – and so the Brazilians moved aggressively again, spending $6 billion to create two gigawatts of energy produced by wind.
The Brazilian Wind Energy Association set a goal of achieving 10 gigawatts of wind energy capacity by 2020. The country already generates 70% of wind power in all of Latin America.
Also, Brazil’s National Electric Energy Agency held the country’s first ever wind-only energy auction in 2009. That year about 1,800 megawatts (MW) were contracted with energy from 71 wind power plants scheduled to be delivered beginning July 1, 2012.
Yet here in the United States, while much political blather and lip service has been extended to the idea of “reducing our dependence on foreign oil” support for alternative forms of energy have been spotty and sporadic, and subject to the whims of the oil markets. When oil and coal are cheap, politicians fall asleep … until the next spike in gas prices … which temporarily reignites talk of policies favorable to solar, wind and others.
But wait a minute? Didn’t Mitt Romney repeatedly berate President Obama during the debate on Oct. 3 for blowing “$90 billion on breaks for wind and solar in one year”? In fact, Romney repeated this claim five times. Brazil’s recent $6 billion to create two gigawatts of wind energy would seem to pale by comparison, right?
Well, the fact is, Romney’s claim is absolutely false. I won’t go into detail about his false claims here – you can read the details of why his statement was both deceptive and untrue HERE
The fact is, one of the best U.S. policies for bolstering the wind and solar industry has been the Renewable Energy Production Tax Credit which will expire on Dec. 31, 2012. The example of LM Wind, the company cited at the top of this story, is laying off 300 people in North Dakota directly as a result of the uncertainty about whether Congress will bring the tax credit back again.
Similar scenarios are playing out across the country. Example: The Streator Deer Run project in Illinois. Streator laid off 50 employees this month in anticipation of the loss of the tax credit program. Before the impending demise of the tax credit, Streator and other wind-solar companies were not only creating jobs, but significantly reducing dependence on fossil fuels.
Wind energy created 814 permanent jobs in Illinois, added 19,047 jobs during construction, generated $13 million to local landowners and $28.5 million in property tax value, according to a Center for Renewable Energy study at Illinois State University.
The study also showed that the Illinois Power Agency was able to lower power prices by $177 million thanks to wind energy output.
So from Minnesota, to North Dakota, Illinois and hundreds of other locations around the U.S., green, clean energy jobs are being abandoned in favor of dirty fossil fuels, which are heavily subsidized by Uncle Sam – while other nations, such as Brazil and Germany – are hiring workers and creating green energy jobs at a rapid rate.
It’s clear that a Romney presidency would be a disaster for U.S. green and alternative energy policy, with another Democratic term only slightly less ugly than the former.
Only the U.S. Green Party maintains a sane energy policy tilted toward wind and solar, and away from dirty, polluting fossil fuels. Brazil produces 84.5% of its electricity from domestic renewable resources. If Brazil can do it, so can the United States.
See also: How Can Green Compete With Coal?
See my book review: LIVING OFF THE GRID
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