Ad hominem attacks distract from failure of wind subsidies

Even though Americans for Prosperity has a diverse donor base of over 90,000, our left-leaning critics usually focus on only two of them. Organizations like the Union of Concerned Scientists and the American Wind Energy Alliance used ad-hominem attacks as a political tactic to distract from the economic facts in its latest hit piece in The Hill by Elliott Negin. Looking past Negin's empty rhetoric, the consistent failures of federal tax breaks for wind power and the overwhelming grassroots opposition to extending them are clear.

The reality is that American taxpayers have seen very little return on their forced investment over the past 20 years. The industry remains woefully dependent on federal tax breaks, state purchase mandates, and wishful thinking. It routinely fails to produce long-term job creation and threatens the reliability of the energy grid. Compared to other forms of energy technology, wind power receives the highest amount of subsidy per amount of electricity produced. Looking at Energy Information Administration data, government support per megawatt hour for natural gas, oil, and coal is 64 cents; nuclear $3.14; wind $56.29. Only solar power has the dubious distinction of being a greater recipient of Uncle Sam’s welfare, at $775.64 per megawatt hour.

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Support for ending federal tax breaks for wind energy is as popular as it is good policy. Americans for Prosperity’s 90,000 donors and 2.3 million activists across all 50 states share a vision of a national energy policy that is affordable, economically viable, and reliable—and wind power is none of these things. Along with a diverse coalition of over 100 organizations, they desire energy solutions that are affordable for the nation's families and employers, not handouts for President Obama's favorite few. As I highlighted earlier in the Hill, the organizations that signed on to the letter are diverse in both geography and ideology.

American families continue to struggle in the down economy, yet each year the federal government sends $12 billion of taxpayers’ hard-earned tax dollars to special interests in the wind energy industry. Congress should eliminate of these targeted incentives across the board in favor of a market-based energy policy. Allowing the wind production tax credit (PTC) to expire at the end of the year would be a great first step.

Despite PTC’s objectively poor performance and this strong opposition, lawmakers repeatedly extend and expand handouts for wind power. As the main tax break for wind energy, PTC was scheduled to expire this past December, but Congress slipped a one-year extension into the Fiscal Cliff deal. 

Thankfully this year Congress is poised to break with the past. With the House of Representatives adjoined for the holidays and the Senate focused on nominations, it is unlikely that Congress will extend it before December 31. When they return to Washington in January, members of Congress should resist the temptation to pass a retroactive extension.

Harbin Hanson is Federal Affairs Manager for Americans for Prosperity, a conservative political advocacy organization.