Wind power is an American success story with bipartisan support

The Hill recently carried on its blog an attack on wind power by Christine Harbin of Americans for Prosperity, a group which is funded by competing energy industries and which, not surprisingly, strongly supports them instead.

If there is a sense of déjà vu from reading Harbin’s column, which calls for ending the federal wind energy Production Tax Credit (PTC), it’s because her claims are the same misinformed chatter about wind power and the tax credit that we’ve had to get used to in recent years from other special-interest groups.

The truth is, American wind power has emerged as a mainstream and reliable energy source. Wind power’s growth and its amazingly low cost today is an American success story that competitors of wind would rather go untold.

But to keep that success story going, wind needs a predictable business environment – and that will take a continued pro-growth tax policy.

In the absence of a federal energy policy, the tax code has become America’s de facto energy policy. It has worked well enough to drive the adoption of wind power over 20 percent in Iowa, Kansas, and South Dakota (and over 12 percent in a half-dozen other states).

Over 550 factories in 44 states now serve the industry, making it increasingly “Made in the USA.” With a stable policy, wind power can stay on track to support over 500,000 American jobs by 2030, as envisioned by the Department of Energy.

Wind energy is a good deal for America. No wonder Americans want more of it – by 71 percent, according to a Gallup poll this year.

Curiously, when attacking the PTC, Americans for Prosperity and similar groups always fail to mention that federal incentives encouraging the growth of various forms of energy are nothing new and have existed for decades. Many of the incentives for other electricity sources have existed as permanent features of tax law and represent a lion’s share of government support for energy sources.

Deciding to invest in wind power is even easier these days with better technology and a strong domestic manufacturing base behind it. This summer, Warren Buffet’s MidAmerican Energy Company agreed to invest up to $1.9 billion to expand its wind generation fleet in Iowa. It’s the largest economic development investment in Iowa’s history. And tech-savvy companies like Facebook and Google continue to invest millions in wind to power their server farms.

And just last month, the DOE reported that wind contract prices fell over 40 percent since 2008. These savings are passed on to consumers. A May 2013 Synapse Energy Economics report found doubling the use of wind energy in the Mid-Atlantic and Great Lake states would save consumers close to $7 billion per year.

As CPS Energy CEO Doyle Beneby said in August when his utility signed new contracts for wind and solar power, “renewables have an added value because they are emission-free and serve as a hedge against costly future federal regulations.”

Currently installed wind power avoids nearly 100 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions a year – the equivalent of taking 17 million cars off the road – and saves over 30 billion gallons of fresh water annually.

Bipartisan support for American wind power was a welcome feature of last year’s congressional budget fight. Unless comprehensive tax reform should move in this Congress, wind should not be the only energy source to lose its primary federal incentive, when it is doing the best job of delivering the clean energy America needs.

Salerno is chief economist for the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA).