Opposition to extending wind subsidies is growing on Capitol Hill. Legislation sponsored by Rep. Kenny Marchant (R-Texas) eliminating the main federal handout for wind energy, the production tax credit (PTC), just gained more than 50 co-sponsors – and the influential Republican Study Committee has even added the measure to its agenda.

Given the mounting opposition to taxpayer giveaways for wind, it's no wonder special interests in the wind energy industry increasingly seek alternative ways to extend and expand their handouts: regulatory overreach and back room deals.


Consider the regulatory overreach at play. One example is a slew of controversial regulations like the so-called “Clean Power Plan.” These far-reaching rules would force states to use greater amounts of wind-generated electricity in order to comply with federal mandates. Another is the Administration’s past efforts in issuing new guidance through the IRS that makes it easier for wind companies to qualify for subsidies. Combined, these efforts give more power to unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats in extending corporate welfare at the expense of taxpayers. It also fulfills President Obama's past promise to "work around Congress" in order to implement his green energy agenda.

Another tactic to overcome the growing opposition to extending wind subsidies is slipping extensions into back room, eleventh-hour deals. An attempt among Senate Democrats to link a PTC extension to fully lifting the antiquated ban on crude oil exports is one recent example. The danger with this kind of Washington horse-trading is that it leaves taxpayers on the hook for bad policies as the price for enacting common-sense reforms.

As we near the end of the year, it's becoming more likely that Congress will repeat the same mistake as last year: include a PTC extension as an earmark in "tax-extenders" legislation. This grab-bag of expiring tax provisions never gets the scrutiny it deserves because it's considered at the end of the year when lawmakers are itching to recess for the holidays. Congress did a variation of this back in 2013, too — lawmakers slipped in a PTC extension in the so-called Fiscal Cliff deal, another gigantic legislative package passed under the threat of deadline — that time involving billions in across-the-board tax hikes.

The fact that this most recent extension was retroactive shows the corporate welfare nature of the tax credit. Clearly, this was a handout to companies who could afford to begin a new project without the subsidy, since they literally did so. Companies on the margin — those that would have started a new project if they were eligible for the tax credit but not if they were ineligible — would have to travel back in time in order to benefit.

The Left says that it wants to inspire creativity and opportunity in the energy space and elsewhere, but they rely on old-school top-down handouts and mandates. Government-directed innovation simply doesn't work – look no further than the PTC. American taxpayers have seen very little return on our forced investment in wind energy over the past 20 years, especially in terms of long-term job creation and economic viability. Worse, decades on, the industry continues to lean on taxpayers and rely on special-interest, government giveaways.

The answer to providing affordable and reliable energy for American families and businesses is to give entrepreneurs enough room to imagine, innovate, and create new technologies. That means getting government out of the way instead of extending the big-business-as-usual tax handouts and big government mandates. Congress should oppose efforts to resurrect the wind PTC.

Harbin is deputy director of Federal Affairs for Americans for Prosperity.