Mission Almost Accomplished. Climate Deniers Trying to Kill Renewable Jobs in Wind Industry.
September 26, 2012
Let’s be clear. The future of energy is renewable. All of us are going to be using it. The only question is, who will we be buying the technology from?
This is not a welcome reality to fossil fuel interests who control, unfortunately, the Republican party agenda. But, while they can’t stop the the inevitable transition to renewables, but they can insure that America does not lead the industrial revolution of the new century. If that’s the goal, climate deniers have had a few victories recently.
FAIRLESS HILLS, Pa. — Last month, Gamesa, a major maker of wind turbines, completed the first significant order of its latest innovation: a camper-size box that can capture the energy of slow winds, potentially opening new parts of the country to wind power.
But by the time the last of the devices, worth more than $1.25 million, was hitched to a rail car, Gamesa had furloughed 92 of the 115 workers who made them.
“We are all really sad,” said Miguel Orobiyi, 34, who worked as a mechanical assembler at the Gamesa plant for nearly five years. “I hope they call us back because they are really, really good jobs.”
Similar cuts are happening throughout the American wind sector, which includes hundreds of manufacturers, from multinationals that make giant windmills to smaller local manufacturers that supply specialty steel or bolts. In recent months, companies have announced almost 1,700 layoffs.
At its peak in 2008 and 2009, the industry employed about 85,000 people, according to the American Wind Energy Association, the industry’s principal trade group.
About 10,000 of those jobs have disappeared since, according to the association, as wind companies have been buffeted by weak demand for electricity, stiff competition from cheap natural gas and cheaper options from Asian competitors. Chinese manufacturers, who can often underprice goods because of generous state subsidies, have moved into the American market and have become an issue in the larger trade tensions between the countries. In July, the United States Commerce Department imposed tariffs on steel turbine towers from China after finding that manufacturers had been selling them for less than the cost of production.
And now, on top of the business challenges, the industry is facing a big political problem in Washington: the Dec. 31 expiration of a federal tax credit that makes wind power more competitive with other sources of electricity.
The tax break, which costs about $1 billion a year, has been periodically renewed by Congress with support from both parties. This year, however, it has become a wedge issue in the presidential contest. President Obama has traveled to wind-heavy swing states like Iowa to tout his support for the subsidy. Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee, has said he opposes the wind credit, and that has galvanized Republicans in Congress against it, perhaps dooming any extension or at least delaying it until after the election despite a last-ditch lobbying effort from proponents this week.
Wind industry jobs range in pay from about $30,000 a year for assemblers to almost $100,000 a year for engineers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The industry’s contraction follows several years of sustained growth — with a few hiccups during the downturn — that has helped wind power edge closer to the cost of electricity from conventional fuels. The number of turbine manufacturers grew to nine in 2010 from just one in 2005, according to the United States International Trade Commission, while the number of component makers increased tenfold in roughly the same period to almost 400, according to the Congressional Research Service.
Aside from Clipper Windpower and General Electric, most of the turbine manufacturers operating in the United States have headquarters overseas, especially in Europe, where wind power took off first, spurred by clean energy policies and generous subsidies.
The script for the anti-renewable, anti-science movement has been written in a network of fossil-fuel funded right wing think tanks and PR shops, as a recently released memo described.
A network of ultra-conservative groups is ramping up an offensive on multiple fronts to turn the American public against wind farms andBarack Obama‘s energy agenda.
A number of rightwing organisations, including Americans for Prosperity, which is funded by the billionaire Koch brothers, are attacking Obama for his support for solar and wind power. The American Legislative Exchange Council (Alec), which also has financial links to the Kochs, has drafted bills to overturn state laws promoting wind energy.
Now a confidential strategy memo seen by the Guardian advises using “subversion” to build a national movement of wind farm protesters.
The strategy proposal was prepared by a fellow of the American Tradition Institute (ATI) – although the thinktank has formally disavowed the project.
The proposal was discussed at a meeting of self-styled ‘wind warriors’ from across the country in Washington DC last February.
“These documents show for the first time that local Nimby anti-wind groups are co-ordinating and working with national fossil-fuel funded advocacy groups to wreck the wind industry,” said Gabe Elsner, a co-director of the Checks and Balances, the accountability group which unearthed the proposal and other documents.
Among its main recommendations, the proposal calls for a national PR campaign aimed at causing “subversion in message of industry so that it effectively because so bad that no one wants to admit in public they are for it.”
It suggests setting up “dummy businesses” (calling Rick Santorum..) to buy anti-wind billboards, and creating a “counter-intelligence branch” to track the wind energy industry. It also calls for spending $750,000 to create an organisation with paid staff and tax-exempt status dedicated to building public opposition to state and federal government policies encouraging the wind energy industry.