While candidates spar over taxes and private investment in response to sluggish job growth, one of Minnesota’s economic success stories may be coming to an untimely end.
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The production tax credit, a wind-energy incentive that has garnered bipartisan support for years, is up for renewal, and election year rancor and campaign distractions suggest it may be allowed to expire in December. This could be devastating for Minnesota and the wind industry overall. With the encouragement of the PTC and the enthusiasm of private investors willing to take a reduced risk on a young but endlessly renewable energy source, the cost of wind has dropped 90% since 1980 and wind now provides 3% of our national energy supply. The local impact is even stronger. The wind industry generates nearly 13% of Minnesota’s energy, and provides good jobs for up to 3,000 people. In only five years, the US has shifted from importing 75% of our turbine parts to producing 60% domestically. Minnesota currently has sixteen such manufacturing facilities (American Wind Energy Association).
The temperate fall weather makes December seem distant, but this issue is affecting Minnesotans today. Wind industries are preemptively laying off employees because of the uncertainty of future funding. Congressman Chip Cravaack was among a bipartisan group of 50 freshman senators who signed onto a letter supporting the extension of all existing tax credits, citing the economic uncertainty that inevitably comes with frequent policy changes. Without assurance that the PTC will be renewed more jobs may be lost, and a promising young industry may fizzle out.