Sen. Lamar Alexander: Kill Wind Power Subsidy

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Thursday, 08 May 2014 12:25 PM

By Lisa Degnen

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Sen. Lamar Alexander says the wind-production tax credit is an unnecessary subsidy that will cost the American taxpayer billions.

The Tennessee Republican wrote in The Wall Street Journal that the original program expired last December, but that in April the Senate Finance Committee approved a two-year renewal package with a budget of $13 billion.

"Once again, Washington is proving Ronald Reagan's observation that "the nearest thing to eternal life that we'll ever see on this earth is a government program," Alexander wrote.

He makes the argument that if wind power is, as President Barack Obama's former Energy Secretary Stephen Chu says, a "mature technology," it should be able to survive on its own without a government handout.

"The 2.3-cent tax credit for each kilowatt-hour of wind-power electricity produced is sometimes worth more than the energy it subsidizes," Alexander said in the Journal. "Sometimes in some markets, for example in Texas and Illinois, the subsidy is so large that wind producers have paid utilities to take their electricity and still make a profit."

He adds that the program is a waste of money and undercuts other energy industries like nuclear and coal, and the turbines are eyesores that often destroy the environment in the name of saving it.

"A better use of taxpayer dollars would be to reduce the ballooning federal debt or to invest in research to find new forms of cheap, clean, reliable electricity," he wrote.

"For example, what about a substantial cash prize from the U.S. Department of Energy for creating a truly commercial use for carbon captured from coal and natural-gas plants? Such a discovery would be the Holy Grail of clean energy — permitting the use of coal worldwide to produce an abundant supply of cheap, clean, reliable electricity to reduce poverty while protecting the environment."

Last year, Americans For Prosperity wrote an open letter to Congress urging lawmakers not to extend wind-energy tax credits and said the government should stop interfering in free markets.

"The wind energy industry clearly has little to show for 20 years of tax breaks," the group's Christine Harbin Hanson said. "Congress should cut its losses and end this wasteful handout for the wind industry once and for all."

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