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Bipartisan coalition aims to end wind power subsidies

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Michael Bastasch Contributor
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Kansas Republican Rep. Mike Pompeo leads a bipartisan coalition calling for the end of wind subsidies as Congress considers allowing wind tax credits to expire at the end of the year.

Pompeo and 51 other lawmakers, including West Virginia Democratic Rep. Nick Rahall, sent a letter to the House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp, urging him to reject extending the Wind Production Tax Credit.

“The growth in wind is driven not by market demand, but by a combination of state renewable portfolio standards and a tax credit that is now more valuable than the price of the electricity the plants actually generate,” reads the letter to Camp.

“As the House Ways and Means Committee takes on the commendable, but difficult, task of enacting revenue-neutral tax reform legislation, the PTC should be excluded from there or in any tax extenders legislation that the Committee may consider,” the letter continues.

Efforts to end wind tax credits have been backed by conservative groups, who argue that the wind industry has been getting taxpayer dollars for two decades and should be able to stand on its own by now.

“The expiration of this decades old government giveaway is long overdue, yet the wind industry continues to rake in federal dollars and distort energy markets at great cost to American consumers,” said Thomas Pyle, president of the American Energy Alliance.

The Wind PTC was enacted in 1992 and gave wind producers 1.5 cents for every kilowatt hour of electricity it produced for a ten-year period. By 2013, the subsidy grew to 2.3 cents per kilowatt hour. The one-year extension of the wind tax credit cost $12.1 billion, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation, and extending the tax credit for another  year would cost $6 billion.

“The wind industry is no longer the infant that it professes to be and no longer needs the wind PTC,” Pyle added. “Powerful and well-financed lobbyists are working overtime to push Chairman Camp to bury another wind giveaway in any reform proposal.”

However, the wind industry and some state governors are pressing Congress to keep subsidies for wind power. These groups are pushing lawmakers to pass a multi-year extension of the wind subsidy — to bring certainty to the industry.

“The nation’s wind industry developers do not need this tax credit forever, but they do need policy certainty in the near term to bring their costs to a fully competitive level,” write eleven state governors led by Oregon Democrat John Kitzhaber. “Please support our states in the pursuit of economic strength, energy diversity, and consumer savings, by acting quickly to adopt a responsible multi-year extension, even if it reduces in value over time, of the production tax credit.”

Wind producers have long touted the environmental benefits of switching over to the green power source. Wind power emits no carbon dioxide emissions which are believed to drive global warming.

However, wind power is intermittent and extremely costly — six times costlier than often claimed by proponents.

Furthermore, environmental activists have been pushing back against wind developments for their impacts on wildlife. One study claimed that wind turbines killed more than 600,000 bats in 2012, and other research has found that 573,000 birds are killed annually by wind farms.

“It is the rationale that we have to get off of carbon, we have to get off of fossil fuels, that allows them to justify this,” said Tom Dougherty, a former National Wildlife Federation employee. “But at what cost? In this case, the cost is too high.”

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