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Don’t pull the plug: Wind energy empowers U.S.

Published: Thursday, April 3, 2014 11:10 a.m. CDT

Momentum is building to extend expired tax provisions that lapsed Dec. 31.

Of the 55 expired tax breaks on the table, wind energy incentives are among those left hanging. The industry faces instability and uncertainty caused by the expiration of the investment and production tax credits.

We’re working to build bipartisan, bicameral and regional alliances to secure a victory for America’s 21st century clean energy policy. So far, 144 lawmakers have stood with us and hard-working families in our effort to support onshore and offshore wind energy developments in the tax extenders package.

Specifically, we are pressing leaders in the House and Senate to prioritize extensions of the job-creating investment and production tax credits for wind energy.

This federal tax policy has helped to launch a carbon-free energy source and diversify America’s portfolio of homegrown, alternative sources of energy.

The tax credits have helped to support 85,000 U.S. jobs; trigger $105 billion in private sector investment; reduce the carbon footprint by displacing carbon-emitting energy with clean generation wind energy (U.S. wind power capacity of more than 60,000 megawatts avoids 100 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions, the equivalent of taking 17 million cars off the road); and, harness an inexhaustible source of affordable, domestic electricity for consumers.

Opponents of wind energy tax incentives argue the industry doesn’t need any government support, yet there are plenty of tax policies for various industries that have been on the books for decades longer than those for wind.

If one measure is on the table for potential removal, all of them should be on the table. Everything deserves consideration on its merits, and wind energy stands up to scrutiny.

Technology, tax incentives and private investment work to strengthen the renewable energy sector’s position in the free marketplace and power America’s carbon-free energy policies forward. Consider that 72 percent of a wind turbine’s value today is made in the United States, compared to 25 percent in 2005.

Over the past few decades, wind energy in the United States has changed the economic and energy landscape with nearly 900 utility-scale wind projects on the nation’s electricity grid and more than 550 wind-related manufacturing facilities.

Wind farms and/or factories have cropped up in all 50 states, putting people to work in good-paying jobs, diversifying farm and ranch income with an organic, drought- and weed-resistant cash crop, revitalizing rural communities and creating pollution-free electricity for millions of homes and businesses across the country.

Under one estimate, if the United States reaches 20 percent of wind-generated electricity, carbon emissions by the electricity sector would fall by up to 25 percent. That’s the equivalent of taking 140 million vehicles off the road.

In fact, at 27.4 percent, Iowa leads the nation, powering the equivalent of 1.3 million homes - Colorado is not far behind, powering roughly a million homes.

Critics looking for additional proof that wind energy tax incentives make good policy and good politics need to consider that wind energy is good for consumers, constituents and taxpayers. Wind energy projects operate in 70 percent of congressional districts. They require no oil spill liability fund to clean up environmental disasters. The U.S. taxpayer doesn’t have to pay for catastrophic insurance as with nuclear power.

But despite its successes in the last two decades, the still-emerging wind industry is working to rebound after setbacks from the uncertainty of expiring tax policy. It suffered 4,500 job losses in 2012 within its manufacturing sector as orders and investment dwindled. Investment dropped from $25 billion to $2 billion.

And this debate is not taking place within a vacuum. A failure to renew wind energy tax credits not only jeopardizes U.S. manufacturing and our pursuit of energy security, but it also threatens U.S. leadership in the global energy race. If Congress pulls the rug out from under wind energy firms, other places like China are more than willing to step into the breach.

The United States can’t afford to pull the plug on wind energy tax incentives that foster responsible environmental stewardship, encourage entrepreneurs to innovate clean-energy technologies and investors to finance the job-creating infrastructure that delivers clean electricity to America’s homes and businesses.

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