Alexan­der makes case for blow­ing off wind power

The Washington Times Daily - - Business - BY DANIEL JACK­SON

A top Re­pub­li­can law­maker said Wed­nes­day that long-stand­ing fed­eral sub­si­dies on the wind farm in­dus­try should be al­lowed to ex­pire at the end of the year, call­ing wind en­ergy un­re­li­able, too ex­pen­sive and dam­ag­ing to the en­vi­ron­ment.

While wind en­ergy in­ter­ests have launched a con­certed cam­paign to pre­serve the tax break, “These are not your grandma’s wind­mills,” said Sen. La­mar Alexan­der, Ten­nessee Re­pub­li­can.

The new power-gen­er­at­ing wind tur­bines “de­stroy the en­vi­ron­ment in the name of sav­ing the en­vi­ron­ment,” Mr. Alexan­der said in a speech at the Her­itage Foun­da­tion on Wed­nes­day, con­tend­ing that the mono­lithic tur­bines de­stroy the aes­thet­ics of the land­scape and even knock ea­gles out of the sky.

The fu­ture of the sub­sidy could hang on an amend­ment in the mas­sive high­way bill now be­fore the Se­nate. Sen. Jerry Mo­ran, Kansas Re­pub­li­can, and Sen. Michael F. Ben­net, Colorado Demo­crat, spon­sored the amend­ment ex­tend­ing the wind en­ergy pro­duc­tion tax credit for an­other year.

Amer­i­can Wind En­ergy As­so­ci­a­tion spokesman Jon Gold­stein said that if the tax cred­its are not re­newed, “The wind in­dus­try would be cut in half” and 37,000 U.S. jobs would be lost.

The tax credit, which dates back to 1992, will ex­pire at year’s end if not re­newed.

The wind com­pa­nies see their in­dus­try is an “Amer­i­can suc­cess story,” ac­cord­ing to John A. Pur­cell, vice pres­i­dent of wind en­ergy at Leeco Steel, a sup­plier of raw ma­te­ri­als for wind farm con­struc­tion. He said in Jan­uary the wind in­dus­try will be­come self­suf­fi­cient in the next 10 years, pro­vide in­ex­pen­sive electricity, and grow into an en­ergy gi­ant sur­pass­ing oil, coal and nat­u­ral gas — but that it needs the fed­eral sub­sidy for now to be es­tab­lished.

The sub­si­dies the fed­eral gov­ern­ment pro­vides are in the form of tax cred­its, not loans or grants.

“There’s noth­ing that we’re ask­ing for up­front that would just dis­solve, and tax­payer money that would be wasted,” Mr. Pur­cell said.

But Mr. Alexan­der, who re­peated his crit­i­cisms in a Se­nate floor speech later in the day, said ex­tend­ing the tax break, at a time of bud­get cri­sis, is fis­cally ir­re­spon­si­ble. “Wind gets more breaks than oil,” he said. And the gi­ant tur­bines don’t al­ways turn. When the winds stand still, the en­ergy grid needs the backup power of gas-fu­eled or coal-fu­eled power plants.

“Wind tur­bines pro­duce a rel­a­tively puny amount of ex­pen­sive, un­re­li­able en­ergy,” Mr. Alexan­der said, adding that wind pro­duces 2.3 per­cent of the na­tion’s over­all en­ergy and only 8 per­cent of Amer­ica’s “green” en­ergy.

He ac­knowl­edged that killing the tax credit was “not go­ing to be easy to do.”

“There are more lob­by­ists per square foot on this is­sue than I’ve seen in a long time, which is an in­di­ca­tion of the bil­lions of tax­payer dol­lars that are go­ing into the pock­ets of wealthy peo­ple who ben­e­fit, and com­pa­nies who ben­e­fit, from these tax breaks,” Mr. Alexan­der said.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Fed­eral sub­si­dies on the wind farm in­dus­try are set to ex­pire at the end of the year. The sub­si­dies, which date back to 1992, are pro­vided in the form of tax cred­its.

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