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New Campaign Against “Toxic” Wind Tax Credit Could Backfire

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A lobbying group called the American Energy Alliance (AEA) has reportedly unleashed a campaign to make the wind tax credit too “toxic” to win the support of Republican legislators. That’s a pretty tall order considering that wind power has a broad constituency that cuts clear across party lines. About 81 percent of Congressional districts with the best wind capacity are currently represented by Republican legislators, and wind farms are an economic success story for rural communities, where there is generally more support for Republican legislators. So, how exactly does AEA expect to make a rational case against extending the wind tax credit?

AEA lobbies agains wind tax credit

The Halloween Case Against the Wind Tax Credit

Short answer: it doesn’t. Judging from a recent editorial by AEA president Thomas Pyle, AEA’s strategy is not so much an argument against the wind tax credit as it is an exercise in fragging any Republican legislator who supports wind power.

First up on the chopping block is Senator Chuck Grassely (R-Iowa), one of the wind tax credit’s earliest and strongest supporters. As Pyle describes it:

“The Production Tax Credit (PTC) for wind energy is fast becoming the zombie of taxpayer nightmares.  Every time you think this special interest giveaway is dead, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and his alliance of subsidy-hunting policymakers conduct a legislative séance and conjure it from the great beyond.”

Other than advancing the idea that any Republican who supports the wind tax credit is a witch, Pyle’s editorial does not present an actual argument. He only points out that wind and coal have both been used to generate electricity for more than a century, leading him to conclude that by this time “you would think that wind would be ready to stand on its own without special favors from the federal government.”

Since Pyle makes coal disappear from the equation, he can ignore coal’s long history of federal subsidies or the near $350 billion in externalized costs borne by taxpayers in public health costs caused by coal burning. What’s left is a sleight-of-hand enabling the reader to assume that wind mooches off the federal dime while coal stands on its own.

Anti-Wind, Anti-Heartland

AEA might have been able to steamroll this logical fail into a lobbying victory just a few years ago, but it’s quite a different matter now that rural communities have gotten a taste of wind power’s benefits (come to think of it, presidential candidate Mitt Romney might want to reconsider his position with Election Day 2012 looming ahead; when last heard from, Romney opposed extending the wind tax credit).

In 2010, CleanTechnica profiled one rural Missouri community that was already reaping the benefits of wind power with new income for farmers and new revenue for local governments, despite the continued fallout from the 2008 financial crisis.

The wind industry has seen tremendous growth since then and for an update of the impact of wind power on rural communities you can go to Nebraska’s, which recently profiled the Broken Bow wind project, part of which has just been completed in Custer County. Here are some of’s key points:

– The 14,000-acre wind farm will provide average annual tax revenues of approximately $600,000 over the next 25 years in property taxes and state income taxes.

– Local landowners will be paid an average of $540,000 per year in lease royalties.

– The wind farm will provide seven permanent jobs in the Broken Bow area.

– During its peak construction, the Broken Bow LLC project employed approximately 100 people.

– The project contributed approximately $5.6 million to the state in sales tax revenues.

As for any future benefits, ruefully notes that “the Custer County project could be the last or next to last wind farm built in Nebraska for a while, given uncertainty about the future of a federal tax credit for electricity produced from large-scale wind turbines.”

Image (cropped): Toxic chemicals by healthserviceglasses (some rights reserved)

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Tina specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Spoutible.


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