Wind Energy Lobby Kindly Proves My Point

by William Yeatman on December 8, 2010

in Blog

Two weeks ago, my colleague Chris Horner and I coauthored an oped about the renewable energy industry’s dependence on taxpayer subsidies. To make our point, we listed a number of examples of renewable energy executives warning that massive layoffs were imminent, unless the Congress passed or renewed green energy giveaways.

-Biomass Power Association President Robert Cleaves (February 2010): “Thousands of jobs in the biomass power industry could be lost if Congress fails to extend the production tax credit.”

-American Wind Energy Association CEO Denise Bode (July 2010): “Manufacturing facilities will go idle and lay off workers if Congress doesn’t act now” to impose a federal mandate for electricity produced by AWEA members.

-Solar Energy Industry Association President Rhone Resch (September 2008): “Unless Congress promptly returns to complete their unfinished business, the solar industry will suffer with the loss of 39,000 jobs.”

-Renewable Fuels Association CEO Bob Dinneen (November 2010): “Allowing the tax incentive to expire would risk jobs in a very important domestic energy sector and across rural America.”

Currently, the Congress is deliberating whether or not to extend a particularly generous subsidy that was established by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, a.k.a. the stimulus. It’s called the Treasury Department section 1603 tax credit, and it allows renewable energy projects to receive up to 30% of their capital costs up front. The Congress created this subsidy because the 2008/2009 financial crisis rendered ineffective the production tax credit, which had been the renewable energy industry’s primary means of remaining economically viable. The production tax credit was based on corporations having profits and therefore a tax liability. The financial crisis, of course, wiped out corporate profits. So the Congress included the section 1603 program in the stimulus. Now, the renewable energy industry wants to keep both subsidies alive. When it comes to government goodies, the more the merrier.

In this context, the American Wind Energy Association yesterday issued a press release that lends further credence to the point made by Chris and me in our oped. Consider,

TENS OF THOUSANDS OF LAYOFFS IN AMERICAN WIND ENERGY SEEN AT STAKE IN TAX EXTENDER PACKAGE

In the process of preparing year-end numbers on the industry, the American Wind Energy Association reports that tens of thousands of Americans could lose their jobs or not get called back from layoffs without the 1603 investment tax credit for renewable energy that hangs in the balance as Congress and the White House work to settle a tax package.

“We have people being laid off right now, and we expect to see more without fast action on the tax extenders now being negotiated,” said Denise Bode, CEO of AWEA. “The 1603 tax credit extension would help bring them back as soon as possible.” According to the trade group’s research, there are over 15,000 jobs in the manufacturing pipeline alone. “We are risking those jobs by not sending a clear signal that America remains open for business in wind energy,” Bode said.

The 1603 tax investment credit saved 55,000 jobs in wind energy, as estimated by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Overall employment has reached 85,000 in the American wind industry, as installed capacity has grown 40 percent in each of the past two years. Wind now generates 20 percent of the electricity in Iowa; and on Oct. 28, high winds pushed wind power to 25 percent of the electrical generation in Texas.

As Chris and I conclude,

Of course, it is only natural for aid-dependent industries to warn that they would suffer without the continuation of aid. Employing this circular logic, taxpayer funded renewable power has remained the “energy of the future” for decades. But American taxpayers simply cannot afford to subsidize industries that are forever-nascent.

Sure Energe December 20, 2010 at 9:16 pm

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