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More Industries Begs Trump For Subsidies After Carrier Deal

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Michael Bastasch Contributor
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Plug Power employees asked President-elect Donald Trump to support bringing back tax subsidies for fuel cells that expired at the end of last year to save “tens of thousands” of jobs from overseas competition.

“We need a champion like you who stands up for hardworking Americans like us, and who isn’t afraid to call out mistakes and fix them,” Power Plug employees wrote to Trump’s transition team about a week after the president-elect announced a deal to keep the company Carrier from moving jobs to Mexico.

“And right now, we dominate fuel cell technologies globally, but we could lose that standing to other countries,” the employees wrote. “Before Congress goes home in December, we respectfully ask that you help get the [investment tax credit] Phase Out done.”

Power Plug is just the latest company to urge Trump to support tax subsidies to their industry in the wake of Carrier getting $7 million in tax breaks from Indiana over the next 10 years. In exchange, Carrier promised to keep 1,000 jobs in the U.S. it planned on outsourcing to Mexico.

“If President-Elect Trump and members of Congress are serious about saving American manufacturing jobs, they can act right now by supporting an extension of the Investment Tax Credit,” Doug Dougherty, president of the Geothermal Exchange Organization, said in a statement after the Carrier deal.

Dougherty’s industry benefits from tax credits that subsidize the installation of geothermal heating systems in homes. Those tax credits are set to expire at the end of 2016, and the industry has launched a major effort to get lawmakers to extend them.

A similar argument was made by Morry Markowitz, president of the Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Energy Association. Markowitz said recent news of “layoffs are a preview of what might happen if this is not resolved.”

The Connecticut-based FuelCell Energy announced in December it was laying off 96 employees as part of a restructuring effort.

Fuel cell manufacturers want Trump to support applying an investment tax credit to their products. The industry argues it’s unfair Congress extended tax credits for solar panels and fuel cells, but not natural gas-powered fuel cells.

If Trump obliges, it could set off another fight over extending tax credits to industries favored by lawmakers. Every year, lawmakers battle over extending credits, especially to green energy sources.

Trump’s deal with Carrier, an air conditioner and furnace manufacturer, has been criticized as corporate welfare. Others have pointed out it’s only a short-term solution to U.S. economic woes.

“There is little, after all, to stop other companies from threatening to move jobs to win similar concessions,” wrote Ben Casselman, chief economics writer at FiveThirtyEight. “And such deals offer ample opportunity for corruption and abuse as politicians decide which companies deserve help and which jobs deserve saving.”

But Trump says his actual plan to keep businesses in the U.S. will be through lowering taxes and regulatory reform. Trump also promised to tax businesses that try to move jobs overseas.

“I just want to let all of the other companies know that we’re going to do great things for business,” Trump said in a speech at Carrier’s Indiana plant. “There’s no reason for them to leave anymore because your taxes are going to be at the very, very low end, and your unnecessary regulations are going to be gone.”

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