Iowa Public Television


Optimism is Blowing in the Wind

posted on April 8, 2010

Hello, I'm Mark Pearson. After a three-day weekend, trading resumed Monday on Wall Street, where the Dow Jones Industrials Average was seeking its 6th consecutive winning week.

The market was closed last Friday when the Labor Department reported U.S. employers added 162,000 positions to their payrolls in March. That's the largest job growth in nearly three years. While it wasn't enough to push the nation's unemployment rate below 9.7 percent, it did propel the Dow within a dozen points of the 11,000-mark on Monday.

Meanwhile, the Institute for Supply Management, or ISM, announced its Service Index rose to 55.4 in March. Any reading above 50 signals growth, and last month's gain of nearly 2.5 percent suggests the economic recovery is expanding from America's factories to include other sources of jobs.

And the National Association of Realtors reported its index of pending home sales rose 8.2 percent in February, as buyers take advantage of federal tax credits set to expire April 30.

Of course, homebuyers aren't the only ones trying to capitalize on government largesse. This week, members of a key alternative energy sector called on policymakers to preserve tax incentives credited with propelling their industry forward.

Optimism is Blowing in the Wind

According to the American Wind Energy Association, or AWEA, the U.S. wind industry grew at record pace in 2009, with the installation of 10,000 megawatts of new capacity or enough electricity to power 2.4 million homes. The report ranked Iowa first in the percentage of electricity produced from wind, and also said the state leads in the number of jobs in the wind manufacturing sector. Currently, 14% of Iowa's electrical energy is produced by wind. This week the Iowa Wind Energy Association held its annual meeting in Ames, Iowa.

Harold Prior, President IWEA: "Iowa is a shining example of what can be accomplished with wind in the portfolio of energy production."

As president of the Iowa Wind energy Association, Harold Prior is proud of his states accomplishments and optimistic regarding the industries future.

Harold Prior, President IWEA: "There are terrific options in the wind industry. It is a rapidly growing industry, there are a lot of issues that threaten that growth, but there are terrific opportunities."

Rep. Tom Latham, R-Iowa: "We have some problems in the wind energy and in our whole energy system today. For one thing, as far as the stop/start tax credits that are available. To be able to plan long term, you have to know what the future will be there for you. And if you'll remember back a few times, when the tax credits were about to expire, the wind energy or the investment in wind basically dried up entirely."

Questions regarding the availability of tax credits in the future drew many manufacturers to the conference.

Rich Kime, Power Engineering and Manufacturing: "We came to see where the industry was heading. I really wanted to hear our federal legislators to hear how they're promoting wind energy, because we're right at a point in our business where we want to see if it is worth the money to start expanding into this industry."

According to the American Wind Energy Association, about 85,000 people are currently employed by the wind industry. Despite early projections of a 50% decline, the wind industry enjoyed 39% growth in 2009. The "shot-in-the-arm" is attributable to the federal stimulus act, which included $7 billion for a renewable energy loan program and a 3-year extension of the federal production tax credit.

Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa: "But we also need to go forward with a more comprehensive energy policy. The House has passed an energy and climate change bill, the Senate is considering legislation and we ne need to move forward so we have a comprehensive national policy that promotes renewables like wind."

While federal tax incentives are credited with much of the industry's growth, an influential democratic lawmaker from New York is at odds with the Obama Administration over stimulus money.

This week, Senator Chuck Schumer and three other senate democrats asked that the stimulus program be suspended until the law can be fixed so funds only flow to projects creating jobs in the United States. According to Schumer "It's a ‘no-brainer' that stimulus funds should only go to projects that create jobs in the United States rather than overseas. These wind projects have a lot of merit but the manufacturing should be happening here, not in China."

If approved, the legislation would stop payments to projects like a controversial wind farm in West Texas that is on the verge of receiving $450 million in stimulus funds.


Tags: news wind wind power