Obama in Philadelphia: ITC and PTC should be 'permanent'

Candidate Obama first came to the Gamesa Fairless Hills plant in March of 2008 to conduct a town hall meeting with Gamesa’s work force represented by the United Steelworkers Union to jump start the Pennsylvania primaries leading to a national election. Yesterday, three years later, President Obama returned to the same factory and work force and reaffirmed his commitment to keep American workers like those at Gamesa foremost in his thoughts every day of his Presidency in his quest to transform America to a high employment, clean energy economy.

Gamesa has been referred to in the media as a “model U.S. green economy company” for its high road labor and business practices. The President acknowledged this in his remarks today, talking about the inter-connectivity of the green economy, how the country needs to take many single steps in multiple right directions and then aggregate, integrate, and connect those steps to emerge as a fully energy independent nation freed from the geopolitical and geo-cost tyranny of petrochemical global security politics.

He described a number of “virtuous cycle” relationships including smart grids, clean energy, electric vehicles, continuous effective education that feed on each other and together serve to produce a more competitive and energy self-sufficient America over time. While cautioning that it will not happen overnight, he noted China’s and Europe’s lead in green energy technologies and affirmed that America needs to shine as an exporting nation that manufactures and produces goods at home.

Gamesa’s U.S. trajectory has mirrored the plusses and minuses inherent in U.S. national energy policy hits and misses. Without a national clean energy or renewable energy standard and rebounding from the market after effects of the national “great recession,” Gamesa announced pre-Thanksgiving 2009 that it was idling one of its two Pennsylvania factories only to see that factory in Ebensburg re-open in early 2010 and even add a second production line for the first time thanks to targeted federal stimulus funds through Pennsylvania’s Green Energy Works program.

ITC and PTC should be “permanent”

Yesterday President answered a number of questions from a very engaged and supportive audience ranging from smart grid enhancing national deployment of wind power, the high degree of jobs and economic benefits associated with energy efficiency, and whether the Production Tax Credit and Investment Tax Credit programs would continue.

President Obama stated his determination to make the PTC and ITC “permanent.” And, he insisted on the value of continued investment in high performance, high impact education for America’s workforce as a leading differentiator between standing still, going backwards, or surging forward, signaling the Green Academy partnership between Gamesa and Bucks County Community College as a relevant local example.

Throughout his remarks and answers to questions posed by the audience, he made references to Gamesa’s pioneering role since its arrival in Pennsylvania in 2005:

   first overseas wind turbine manufacturer to start building in the U.S; 

   first to sign and embrace an award-winning, progressive relationship with organized Labor (the United Steelworkers Union); 

   first to transform an abandoned brownfield industrial site into a green energy manufacturing hub; 

   first to achieve upwards of 65% domestic content in its wind turbines; 

   first to sign & implement a R&D partnership with a major U.S. defense aerospace & shipbuilding prime contractor (Northrop Grumman, now Newport News Shipbuilding) to develop, build and site next generation off-shore wind turbines “made in the USA” and “first in U.S. waters”; and now,

   first U.S.-based wind turbine manufacturer to win the 2011 U.S. EX-IM Bank Exporter of the Year award for the wind turbines Gamesa has exported from its Pennsylvania factories to wind farms in Honduras and Mexico.

Policies that infuse hope, translated into jobs, producing change American workers can believe in.

Michael Peck is the founder of MAPA Group and a Wind Foundation board member who has worked closely with the leading Spanish wind turbine manufacturer, Gamesa USA, since its entry into North American markets. He wrote this guest blog post after President Obama’s town hall meeting at the Gamesa Fairless Hills plant north of Philadelphia yesterday (April 6, 2011).

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