Wind turbines in action.The proposed tax deal would kill 20,000 potential wind energy jobs.Photo: GrahamThe framework tax deal announced this week by President Obama and GOP leaders in the Senate threatens to kill jobs in one of the sectors our nation needs most — clean energy.

In its current form, the deal would allow the only effective federal support mechanism for renewable electricity to expire, killing the 20,000 wind energy jobs and 11,200 jobs in geothermal that would be created in 2011 and the 65,000 jobs in solar over the next two years.

In addition, without an extension of the Renewable Energy Grant Program, the domestic wind industry will lay off upwards of 25 percent of its workforce — 20,000 people — on the first of January.

This is not acceptable.

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In order to create new jobs, we must create brand new industries. Renewable energy — like wind, solar, and geothermal — is a natural resource that can be harvested domestically with equipment and technology made in America.

Unfortunately, Republicans in Congress don’t see it that way. They are determined to keep America tethered to the dirty, pollution-heavy energy industries of the past. This Congress, Republicans have fought to keep some $36 billion in subsidies for the biggest industry in the mix — oil and gas.

That would be the same oil industry that has dictated a failed U.S. energy policy for decades. It is one that runs on foreign oil, siphoning half a billion dollars a day out of the U.S. economy and directing it to OPEC and nations in the Middle East that support terrorist activity. Foreign oil alone represents nearly half our trade deficit.

This is not acceptable.

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We need an oil change. That is why Democrats in Congress are fighting to extend the Renewable Energy Grant Program for two years. This program was created under the Recovery Act as a patch for the production tax credit and the investment tax credit programs.

In the wake of the Republican Recession that destroyed 8 million jobs and dismantled financial markets in 2008, new clean energy entrepreneurs and small businesses could not get access to credit — meaning the existing production tax credit and the investment tax programs no longer worked.

Democrats acted in an emergency situation to save these jobs and ensure that the American clean energy sector — which has the potential to become the most important global economic driver for the next century — did not meet an untimely end.

And the results are clear. The Renewable Energy Grant Program created 55,000 jobs and directly led to the deployment of 4,250 megawatts of renewable energy in 2009.

Harvesting this clean, safe renewable energy has also created an opportunity to breathe new life into America’s factories. The Recovery Act also included the Clean Energy Manufacturing Program allocating $2.3 billion in tax credits for building and expanding manufacturing facilities.

That provided a 30 percent tax credit for investments in 183 manufacturing facilities for clean energy products across 43 states to support 41,000 jobs. Demand for this program exceeded expectations — $7.7 billion worth of applications poured in — and it helped get Americans out of unemployment lines and back onto assembly lines building wind turbines and solar panels.

Democrats in the House spent the past two years fighting to forge a real, long term plan for American energy independence, a plan that ensures the United States doesn’t take second place to China in the race for clean energy jobs and technology.

Our plan included a renewable electricity standard, electric vehicle incentives, and efficiency measures. Our plan protected consumers from price spikes, like $4 gas, and gave small business and entrepreneurs the chance to compete with Big Oil.

Unfortunately, other than the Recovery Act, Republicans in the Senate killed every attempt to move forward on clean energy. As a result, the private investment community is now looking to move trillions of dollars away from the U.S. That money may now be spent on jobs in China, South Korea, Europe, and elsewhere.

This is not acceptable.

That is why, at a minimum, THIS Congress and the president must immediately move to protect and extend both the Renewable Energy Grant Program and the Clean Energy Manufacturing Program.

While Republican leaders may hope to push clean energy off the agenda in the 112th Congress, the reality is the threat of foreign oil, rising gas prices, and jobs competition from China will keep these problems front and center.

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