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Congress extends tax credits for wind, biofuels

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 2, 2013 at 5:17 pm •  Published: January 2, 2013

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The wind energy and ethanol industries celebrated a victory Wednesday with the inclusion of tax credit extensions in the tax relief bill approved by Congress, but that may not mean lost jobs will come back anytime soon.

The measure approved Tuesday night as part of the bill extending tax cuts for most taxpayers also helps wind energy and ethanol producers by extending tax credits, most of which expired Monday.

Among the states expected to benefit from the extension are Texas, the nation's leading wind energy producer, and Iowa, the leading ethanol maker. However, inaction for months caused companies to lay off workers anticipating the tax breaks would go away.

The American Wind Energy Association said as many as 37,000 jobs could have been lost beginning in the first quarter of the year if the production tax credits had not been renewed. The wind industry employs about 75,000 workers.

"Now we can continue to provide America with more clean, affordable, homegrown energy, and keep growing a new manufacturing sector that's now making nearly 70 percent of our wind turbines in the U.S.A.," said Rob Gramlich, the trade group's interim CEO.

Siemens Energy Inc., which makes wind turbine blades and other equipment, laid off 615 workers in Iowa, Kansas, and Florida in September in part because Congress had not renewed the tax credit.

The company said Wednesday the renewal was a step in the right direction but many customers had accelerated projects to start in 2012 to qualify for the credit, making it a record year for turbine installations. Wind projects take months to develop and additional time to manufacture the turbines, blades and towers that make up each generator. As a result 2013 could be a slow year as the industry once again begins to ramp up production.

"Therefore, we are currently evaluating the potential impact the extension will have in the short term," Siemens Energy spokeswoman Melanie Forbrick said in a statement.

Danish wind turbine manufacturer Vestas reduced its U.S. workforce by 20 percent in 2012 in part due to the tax credit expiration. North America spokesman Andrew Longeteig said the company doesn't speculate on future employment figures, but the extension is critical to ensure the projects move forward and orders are placed that support U.S. manufacturing. He said the industry will be stronger due to the extension.

Katana Summit, a Columbus, Neb.-based wind tower manufacturer, closed plants in Columbus and Washington in early November, laying off nearly 300 workers. CEO Kevin Strudthoff blamed uncertainty about tax credits. The Columbus facility was sold to Omaha, Neb.-based Valmont Industries Inc. which is converting it to a factory to make steel towers for utility companies.

An Indiana a group that promotes renewable energy said the extension of the production tax credit for one year was critical, but a long-term step is needed for the industry to expand.

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