WASHINGTON, May 25 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama urged Congress to extend the tax benefits key to the nation's wind power sector.
Speaking Thursday in Newton, Iowa, from a manufacturing facility for TPI Composites, a global provider of wind turbine blades, Obama said: "If Congress doesn't act, companies like this one will take a hit. Jobs will be lost. That's not a guess. That's a fact."
The production tax credit, scheduled to expire at the end of the year unless Congress extends it, gives an income tax credit of 2.2 cents per kilowatt-hour for the first 10 years of electricity production from utility-scale turbines.
The credits have not lapsed since 2004.
"We've got too many of my dear Republican friends in Congress that have been standing in the way of steps that we can take that would make a difference at the moment," Obama said.
Since he became president, Obama said, the nation has nearly doubled the use of renewable energy, including solar and wind power.
"This country's on the path to more energy independence, and that's good for everybody. It's good for people's pocketbooks, it's good for the environment, it's good for our national security," the president said.
"And the best thing is, in the process, we're also putting thousands of Americans back to work, because the more we rely on American energy, the less oil we buy from other countries, the more jobs we create here at home."
Obama's speech follows a meeting earlier this week with industry representatives from the American Wind Energy Association and White House energy adviser Heather Zichal, Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.
Nearly 500 new U.S. manufacturing facilities with 30,000 workers in the wind energy supply chain and orders for 2013 "now hang on the tax credit's extension," the AWEA said.
Because wind projects typically have an 18- to 24-month development cycle, "effectively the PTC is already expiring," Denise Bode, chief executive officer of AWEA, said in a statement. "That is why an extension is urgently needed now."
But Republicans and wind power critics say the PTC is too expensive to support.
"Especially given our debt situation, the government has no business picking winners and losers -- in the energy markets or any other -- using taxpayer dollars," said Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan. "I am confident that wind can survive without a government handout."
The Congressional Research Service says the 10-year extension of the production tax credit would cost the U.S. Treasury an estimated $4.1 billion.
"I think there will be a time when wind can operate without the tax credit, but we're not quite there yet," Steve Lockard, chief executive officer of TPI, was quoted as saying by the Des Moines (Iowa) Register.