Congress: Don’t shut down clean energy jobs

If the past year tells us anything, it's that clean, renewable energy is no longer a hope for the future -- it’s a rapidly growing reality. During the first ten months of 2013, renewable energy sources provided more new power capacity than oil, coal, and nuclear combined. In Oklahoma, more than 200,000 homes are powered by wind energy. California now has 150,000 solar panels installed on rooftops. Iowa and South Dakota are generating nearly a quarter of their power from wind. And Colorado will soon get 20% of its energy from clean sources. That's all good news because Americans value sustainability, investment in local economies, and healthier communities.

So why is the fossil fuel industry trying to halt the expansion of the clean energy sector by killing the wind energy Production Tax Credit (PTC)?

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The PTC is one of several tax incentives that invest in job-creating clean energy and energy efficiency solutions. It has helped kickstart the clean energy economy and drive the creation of 110,000 jobs as American companies have doubled down on wind. Renewing it should be a no-brainer.

Who would want to kill these clean energy jobs? The same folks who loved the government shutdown. Big coal, oil, and gas companies will do whatever it takes to keep clean energy solutions out of the picture -- even if it means breaking the system or putting people out of work. Whether it is inaction on clean energy tax credits or political gridlock that takes clean air cops off the beat, when our government shirks its responsibility, big polluters benefit. Southern Company CEO Thomas Fanning -- one of coal’s few remaining cheerleaders -- came right out and said it: He was “thrilled” by the federal shutdown. It’s no surprise that polluters, their front groups, and their allies in Congress are now trying to block renewal of the job-creating PTC.

As a result, our nation’s clean energy progress -- and tens of thousands of jobs -- are in jeopardy. The wind PTC and other key investments like it will expire in less than four weeks. If Congress doesn’t renew these investments, more than 80,000 American jobs in the wind energy sector could be lost.

Republicans in Congress should know better than to let big polluters lead them down this path. Clean energy investments aren’t just helping keep their constituents healthy -- they are putting their constituents to work. After all, 81 percent of our nation’s installed wind capacity is in districts currently represented by Republicans. In fact, every one of the top five districts for wind in the country is represented by a Republican. Do they really want to go home and look their friends and neighbors in the eye after killing investment  in the very jobs that help so many in their districts make ends meet?

Ironically, the big polluters like BP, Shell, and Chevron that are trying to convince Congress to kill the PTC still enjoy generous tax credits of their own -- all while raking in billions each quarter that make them among the most profitable companies in the world.

Investments in wind and solar are essential to building even greater clean energy momentum and to adding still more jobs in communities that need them. That’s why members of Congress must ensure these credits do not expire. That will be a win-win outcome for all Americans.

Brune is executive director of The Sierra Club.