Extend wind production tax credit and preserve military biofuels program

ADVERTISEMENT
Our dependence on oil from unstable and undemocratic countries puts us at risk. Increasingly, leaders from both major parties have acknowledged that climate change caused by burning fossil fuels has made the world a more dangerous place. For these reasons, there are two things that Congress can do — and needs to do — before January. First, unless Congress acts, a law that provides crucial tax credits for wind energy producers (the “Wind Production Tax Credit” or “wind PTC”) is set to expire. Second, amendments to next year’s National Defense Authorization Act may impede cutting-edge military biofuels programs.

The wind PTC operates by allowing domestic wind energy producers to claim tax credits based on the amount of wind power they actually produce, which makes wind energy cheaper for producers so that they can compete on the open marketplace with other power suppliers. Without it, some 37,000 jobs in the industry could be eliminated, many of them in rural areas across the country. The wind industry has developed rapidly over the past several years, while its costs have plummeted. It offers a way forward for energy that is clean and domestically produced, but if the PTC is yanked out from under the industry right now, then all of this progress could go to waste.

The military biofuels program, meanwhile, was born from the assessment of defense leaders that our reliance on oil is a major vulnerability. Our military deploys troops and spends billions of dollars every year securing oil supply routes, and any rise in oil prices can leave the Defense Department on the hook for billions in costs. That is why the military has been leading the way in developing advanced biofuels to power its ships and aircraft. Congress just needs to stay out of the way.

So why should wind power and military biofuels be bipartisan issues? Because our energy supply is a matter of national security – an issue that should always be supported by Democrats and Republicans. Moreover, we should remember that the PTC is a tax credit and not a “handout” for suppliers. It doesn't replace the market — it motivates the players in the marketplace. The only benefits come from actually producing wind power, so there’s no danger of the government “picking winners and losers” or dumping money into companies that never get off the ground. As for biofuels, we can all agree that it’s dangerous for our military to be hooked to countries like Saudi Arabia and Venezuela on a permanent oil feeding-tube. We need secure ways to power our ships, tanks, and aircraft that are not dependent on the volatile global oil market.

For all of these reasons and more, military veterans like me from across the country will be gathering in D.C. this week to take our case to Congress on both these issues. For members of Congress looking to show they’re serious about bipartisan cooperation, extending the wind PTC and preserving the military biofuels program are great places to start.

Clarke is a retired Air Force officer, who served on the White House staffs of Presidents George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton. He is a senior adviser with the Truman National Security Project. The views expressed are his own.