GOP senators: It's time to end wind energy subsidy

Sens. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said Wednesday that it’s long past time the government stopped subsidizing wind energy.

“Neither of us is saying there is no place for wind energy. There is an important place for it … but it’s time for the federal subsidy to end,” Flake said on the Senate floor.

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The Senate is debating a bill to renew a set of expired tax breaks commonly called "tax extenders," the EXPIRE Act. The bill would continue more than 50 tax credits for two years, including the wind production tax credit.

Flake said he and Alexander would introduce an amendment tomorrow that would strike the wind credit from the bill. It’s unclear whether Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) will allow any votes on amendments.

Later Wednesday, the Senate is expected to adopt the motion to proceed to H.R. 3473, which is being used as a vehicle for the tax extenders package. On Tuesday, the Senate voted 96-3 to end debate on the motion to proceed to the bill.

The Senate tax extender bill costs $85 billion, and $13 billion of it is for the wind credit. Alexander said that money would be better spent paying down the more than $17 trillion federal deficit.

Flake and Alexander pointed out that the wind credit has already been extended more than eight times so the industry should already be able to survive without the government subsidy.

Alexander said that the market distortion is causing coal and nuclear plants to shut down.

“It wastes money and it undercuts reliable energy,” Alexander said.

However, some Republicans support the wind credit, namely Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa).

"Opponents of the renewable energy provisions want to have this debate in a vacuum, without regard for the many incentives and subsidies that exist for other sources of energy and are permanent law," Grassley said pointing out that other energy sources have received federal support. "If one energy provision is on the table for removal, all should be on the table and judged on the merits. Singling out one provision is unfair and distorts the debate."

— This article was updated at 4:20 p.m. to include Grassley's quote.