Brookings’s Ebinger off target with wind energy criticism

Charles K. Ebinger’s January 7 Brookings opinion piece about the production tax credit does get one thing right. It is true that over a project’s lifetime, wind power ultimately drives investment and consumer savings that more than pays for the tax relief it receives. That’s the result of a smart and worthwhile federal policy doing its job.

However, the U.S. Department of Energy has estimated that wind power can provide 20% of America’s electricity needs by 2030. That is a stark contrast from the estimate that Mr. Ebinger provides.

And that isn’t the only fact Mr. Ebinger gets wrong on wind power. The consumer savings provided by wind power, the economic boost that wind power injects to the American economy, and the fact that wind power helps diversify our energy supply are likely some of the biggest reasons why American voters overwhelmingly support it.

Wind power saves consumers money

The cost of producing wind power is dropping and the savings are being passed onto consumers.

According to a May 2012 Synapse Energy Economics, Inc., report, adding more wind power in the Midwest would reduce overall energy costs for consumers, saving the average ratepayer $63 to $147 per year (assuming a 20-GW scenario in 2020) with net savings ranging from $3 billion to $6.9 billion.

When the wind is blowing, it displaces the most expensive (and typically most polluting) power plants on the utility system–often coal or older, less efficient gas plants.

The truth is electricity rates increased two times more in the 40 states with the least wind power between 2005 and 2010 than they did in the top 10 states for wind generation.

Wind power boosts the economy

Due to effective tax policy in the form of the production tax credit (PTC), wind energy creates thousands of jobs in the United States and economic boom times for rural communities all around the country.

Wind power more than pays for the tax relief the PTC provides, through local, state, and federal taxes paid by new projects over their operating lifetimes, and has attracted annual private investment of over $15 billion over the past five years.

Furthermore, the wind energy industry has spurred an entirely new manufacturing sector in America, with 500 manufacturing facilities producing components for the wind energy sector.

A diverse energy portfolio helps America

With the rapid growth of the wind industry, America is establishing a stronger, more diverse energy portfolio.  In Iowa last year, wind farms accounted for almost one-fifth of all electricity generated. (

A diverse energy supply helps protect consumers from price swings in global energy markets. Since wind energy uses no fuel, it reduces the impact of fuel price spikes and provides a source of electricity at dependable long-term costs.

Americans support wind power

According to a new white paper from Navigant’s Pike Research, a significant majority (66%) of Americans said their view of wind energy was “very favorable” or “favorable.”

And in the 2012 election, voters elected candidates who supported wind power.

It’s no coincidence that President Obama’s backing of the production tax credit helped carry several swing states with numerous wind farms and wind power factories.

Voters were heard loud and clear, electing outspoken wind supporters House Reps. Dave Reichert (R-WA), Steve King (R-IA), Tom Latham (R-IA), Sens. Dean Heller (R-NV), and Angus King (I-ME), among others.

Leading up to the election, polls showed that voters supported wind power. In Iowa, a public opinion strategies poll found that more than half of voters (57%), including 41% of Republicans and 59% of Independents, would be less likely to vote for a candidate for President if that candidate did not support expanding American wind power generation. And 85% of Iowans believed that wind energy has been good for the state’s economy and has helped to create jobs in the state.

By David Ward, Consultant,