Steel workers and green industry representatives met today to discuss the future of sustainable resources in the United States.
The panel discussed ways of getting a younger generation of energy leaders and producers, as well as the federal government, more committed to developing a clean economy.
Some believe dependable Production Tax Credits (PTC) could be the answer.
Companies that produce wind, geothermal and other types of renewable energy are eligible for a PTC, which provides a 2.2-cent per kilowatt-hour benefit for the first ten years of operation.
United Steel Workers International Vice President Tom Conway said tax credits like these are great incentives that allow alternative energy companies to flourish.
“If we’re going to change our economy and we’re going to change the way we use energy and we’re going to make it ourselves, we’ve got to spend some money to do it,” he said. “And that’s a message we all ought to be able to get behind regardless of what you think about any of these particular methods of energy development.”
But the panel said the tax credits for renewable energy companies aren’t as reliable as they need to be.
According to the Department of Energy and the Energy Information Agency, Congress has allowed the PTC program to expire five times since 2000, which Conway said is hindering industry growth.
“If you have a congress that every year says, ‘Well, we’ll let you know some time after Christmas and between the end of the year whether you’re going to have a tax credit next year,’ you can’t get started,” Conway said. “You’re sort of paralyzed.”
That industry paralysis adds a lot of financial insecurity for wind industry steel workers like Brad Molinick, who said activists need to get involved if they want to see the creation of secure manufacturing jobs.
“These are the problems that the wind industry and the solar energy and everybody’s facing,” he said, “that the tax credit just keeps setting to expire and we just need to educate more people on the situation at hand.”
According to the BlueGreen Alliance, Pennsylvania’s clean economy employs more than 118,600 people and makes up about 2 percent of the state’s workforce.