Energy & Environment

A public-private global warming fix

Reducing carbon emissions is a challenge for both developed and developing countries. The best way to maximize their limited resources – contrary to general belief – is to ask the public and private sectors to work together.

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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).

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Consumers don't want ethanol

To understand the public’s deeply-rooted opposition to the government’s renewable fuel standard, consider the multiple web sites that list ethanol-free service stations. Just one of the web sites, Pure-Gas, lists 672 ethanol-free stations in Wisconsin, 394 in Minnesota, 262 in Virginia, 145 in Michigan, and so on.  Altogether, PureGas lists more than 7,300 stations in the U.S. and Canada that sell ethanol-free gasoline or diesel.

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Staying the course: Our obligation to renewable fuels

Imagine if Thomas Edison had given up on the light bulb after only trying 533 out of 1600 materials for the bulb’s filamentor or if Sergey Brin and Larry Page had abandoned their search algorithm only one-third of the way towards creating Google. Now consider this: what if these pioneers had never achieved their goals due, not to lack of vision or innovation ability, but because they were told in no uncertain terms—you’ll never succeed.

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Wind subsidies, déjà vu

Expiring wind subsidies bring a sense of déjà vu to Capitol Hill. The main federal tax break for wind energy, the wind production tax credit (PTC), is on track to expire at the end of the year, and history is poised to repeat itself. This year, Congress should break from the past and end this wasteful handout for the wind industry, once and for all.

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We need tough questions on climate change

For the first time since President Obama unveiled his second-term energy agenda at Georgetown University, top administration officials testified before Congress this week in defense of the president’s radical climate action plan. Congress has rightly seized this opportunity to highlight Obama’s plans to finally fulfill his campaign promise to make electricity prices “necessarily skyrocket.”

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Congress needs to fix the helium program now

Unless Congress acts soon, the Federal Helium Program will begin shutting down on October 1. If this happens a valuable federal resource will lie unutilized and 42 percent of current domestic supply will disappear at a time when the helium market is already experiencing shortages. Congress should reauthorize the program with two changes. First, the government should increasingly use auctions to maximize its revenue. Second, since the Reserve will soon be depleted, annual sales should decline gradually, giving the markets time to adjust.

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Voters support action on climate

Last week the House Energy and Commerce Committee held a hearing into the Obama Administration’s energy and climate change policies.  These are important issues that directly impact Americans and are worthy of the serious consideration and discussion they received during the hearing. However, in recent years political partisans have used global climate change as an electoral wedge issue, which has ultimately led to a legislative stalemate on Capitol Hill.

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