Dear Big Wind: It's Not You, It's Me
Breaking up is hard to do. But, sometimes, it’s necessary. At least that’s what the government should say to wind power. The industry’s taxpayer-funded subsidies are set to expire at the end of this year – and Congress shouldn’t reauthorize. Continuing to subsidize a non-profitable industry to the tune of another $1.6 billion would be throwing good money after bad.
Of course, the wind lobby is complaining, threatening that jobs are on the line without the Production Tax Credit (PTC). But, at the end of the day, isn’t that the point of a free market economy? Shouldn’t we be focused on creating an environment where sustainable jobs that are not funded by the taxpayers can flourish?
Meanwhile, other U.S. energy producers are competing in a market where the government has revealed a preference, allowing wind producers to take a 2.2-cent write-off for each kilowatt-hour they produce. But, neither Democrats nor Republicans want to remove the teat from which the wind industry gets its fix.
Enter Mitt Romney, who this week took a strong stance against government picking winners and losers in the energy sector. His campaign went so far as to say, "wind energy will thrive wherever it is economically competitive, and wherever private sector competitors with far more experience than the President believe the investment will produce results."
With their presidential nominee taking a stand for fiscal sanity, one would think that Congressional Republicans would follow suit, particularly in light of the veritable deluge of Solyndra-style government failures during the past several years. The only problem is Republicans in the House have taken over $19,000 this election cycle from the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), the wind industry’s lobby group. Their counterparts in the Senate have received nearly $32,000.
Among the top five recipients on the Republican side in the Senate: Dean Heller (NV) and Chuck Grassley (IA) cashed $5,000 in donations; Jerry Moran (KS) took in $4,259; and Richard Lugar (IN) and Rick Berg (ND) netted $3,000. In the House, Dave Camp (MI) and Kevin McCarthy (CA) pulled in $3,500, while Dave Reichert (WA) was the big winner, cashing checks for $7,500.
With this level of pocket-lining, Big Wind will be expecting some support on that pesky little question about the industry’s subsidy. Let’s hope that Romney’s leadership on the issue gives Republicans the courage to tell the wind lobby to take their money and spend it on pitching real venture capitalists, not those in Washington playing with other people’s money.