ShareThis Page

The wind energy credit: A shafting grows

| Friday, Jan. 4, 2013, 7:34 p.m.

The “fiscal cliff” deal shafts all taxpayers — not just “the rich” — by not just renewing the wind energy Production Tax Credit (PTC) for another year but expanding eligibility, too.

Formerly available only to projects completed during a particular year, the PTC now is available to projects begun by 2013's end, in keeping with industry claims that windmill construction usually takes more than a year.

Thus, even more will be squandered this year than the nearly $12 billion that the Joint Committee on Taxation estimated a simple one-year PTC extension — without expanded eligibility — would have cost. But as former U.S. Sen. Phil Gramm, R-Texas, wrote in The Wall Street Journal, “the cost to taxpayers is only part of the problem.”

Subsidies are so high that producers who pay utilities to take their windmills' electricity still can profit. Coal-, gas- and nuclear-fired plants still have to meet demand when winds don't blow. And the Department of Energy says average wind-power costs in 2009 still were higher than in 1994, two years after the PTC began.

“Like all subsidies, these distort markets and make the country poorer — all in order to enrich a handful of politically influential businesses by shielding these privileged firms from the realities of the marketplace,” says Donald J. Boudreaux, a George Mason University economist and regular Trib columnist.

As the PTC's ill wind blows harder than ever, its cost chills taxpayers even more.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.