Renewable energy & Economic stimulus

by Mike Gaworecki

February 4, 2009

According to the American Wind Energy Association, the wind energy industry installed “8,358 megawatts (MW) of new generating capacity (enough to serve over 2 million homes)” in 2008. To achieve this growth, the wind industry now employs 85,000 people. This is not only a 70% increase over the number of wind jobs that existed in 2007, but it also means, as this CNN article points out, that the wind industry now employs more people in the United States than coal mining. I’m not sure how big a milestone this latter point actually is — it will be a much bigger deal when the wind industry employs more people than the entire coal industry, not just coal miners — but it’s a hopeful sign nonetheless. We’re getting there.

The global economic crisis has hit renewable energy developers and financiers as hard as any other industry, however. Towards the end of 2008 development of renewable energy really took a nosedive because the money simply wasn’t there any more. Now more than ever, we need an extension of the renewable energy tax credits, which were allowed to expire last year.

Thankfully, the Obama administration and Congressional leaders are “looking at including as much as $25 billion of energy tax credits in the economic stimulus package in an effort to bolster renewable energy projects, fuel-efficient cars and biodiesel production,” according to the Washington Post. The article goes on to say that:

The main elements under consideration include a two-year, $8.6 billion extension of the production tax credit for renewable energy, an item that favors wind power projects. Obama advisers are considering a proposal from the wind and solar industry that would make those credits refundable or count them against past taxes because many financial firms that provided capital for those projects no longer have taxable income and can’t use the credits.

If these provisions make it into the stimulus plan, and the plan then gets passed with these provisions more or less in tact, it would go a long way towards getting the energy revolution off the ground. There’s lots more to do, but this would be a good start.

If you want to know more about the environmental impact of the economic stimulus package, you’re in luck! We just published a report all about it (executive summary here).

Since the economy first started going sour, we’ve repeatedly made the point that we could alleviate our economic woes by implementing effective policies to kickstart an energy revolution and combat global warming. We’ve highlighted reports showing that renewable energy creates more jobs than fossil fuel energy. We’ve pointed to anecdotal evidence showing that renewable energy reinvigorates dying communities and gives the people who live in them a renewed sense of purpose and patriotism. We even put out a blueprint for how to get all this done. If done right, the economic stimulus could be the energy revolution’s shot heard ’round the world.

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