Wind energy: Attacks on PTC extension misguided

Los Angeles Times business columnist Michael Hiltzik takes aim at criticisms of the federal wind energy Production Tax Credit (PTC) in an article published yesterday, saying the “real goal” of those in competing energy industries who oppose it is to “is to tilt the playing field back toward the past, not the future.”

Commented Mr. Hiltzik, “To hear business leaders and political candidates talk, proper industrial policy comprises only three elements: a fair tax system, a level playing field and ‘certainty.’ So why is it that all three are about to be thrown out the window as a sop to oil, gas and nuclear interests determined to fillet the wind-power industry?”

Mr. Hiltzik notes that other energy sources have received government encouragement and incentives, some of them for decades, and adds that the PTC, wind power’s primary incentive, has been extremely effective, helping the wind industry grow to 47,000 MW [enough to power the equivalent of 12 million homes] at the end of 2011.  Although the U.S. currently ranks second to China in total wind generating capacity installed, he points out, it still trails far behind global leaders such as Denmark, Portugal, and Germany in the percentage of electricity coming from wind, with roughly 3 percent compared to Denmark’s 29 percent.

The PTC is an incentive that reduces taxes on the operators of wind farms and leaves more of the money they earn from electricity sales in private hands, helping to attract private investment not only in wind projects, but in component manufacturers, suppliers, trucking companies and more.  The PTC provides an income tax credit of 2.2 cents per kilowatt-hour for the first 10 years of electricity production from utility-scale wind turbines. It is set to expire on Dec. 31 unless Congress extends it first. A recent study by Navigant Consulting found that extending the Production Tax Credit will allow the industry to grow to 100,000 jobs in just four years, while an expiration would kill 37,000 jobs within a year.

A House bill seeking to extend the PTC has 110 cosponsors, including 25 Republicans, while a similar Senate bill is cosponsored by seven Senators, including three Republicans.  PTC extension efforts have received the endorsement of a broad coalition of more than 370 members, including the National Association of Manufacturers, the American Farm Bureau Federation, and the Western Governors’ Association. A PTC extension also has the support of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Governors Association, and the bipartisan Governors’ Wind Energy Coalition, which includes 23 Republican and Democratic Governors from across the U.S.  A PTC extension has been endorsed by a number of newspapers across the country, including the Des Moines Register, the Denver Post, the Daily Oklahoman, the Toledo Blade, the Houston Chronicle, the San Antonio Express-News, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Chicago Sun-Times, and The New York Times.

Further endorsements of the wind energy production tax credit.

Tom Gray,