Colorado Sen. Udall Urges Billions More in Wind Subsidies

Image: Colorado Sen. Udall Urges Billions More in Wind Subsidies

Wednesday, 21 May 2014 09:53 AM

By Melissa Clyne

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Colorado Democratic Sen. Mark Udall, who is in a fierce battle to hold onto his seat come the November midterms, is appealing to lawmakers to extend the corporate Production Tax Credit for wind farms, The Washington Free Beacon reports.

The PTC — a corporate tax credit that pays owners of wind farms about $23 per megawatt hour of electricity they produce, according to the Denver Business Journal — expired at the beginning of the year. Udall and fellow Democratic Sen. Michael Bennett are seeking a 10-year extension, acknowledging that the industry is subsidy-dependent.

Without the subsidy, total available wind energy output plummeted by 92 percent, the Free Beacon reports, citing information from the Colorado-based think tank Independence Institute. The credit last expired in 2013.

Udall’s Republican opponent for the Senate seat, U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner, favors phasing out the PTC after a temporary extension. Energy issues — including fracking — are shaping up to be a big component of the men’s Senate campaign battle, the Denver Post reported last month.

Nick Loris, a senior policy analyst with the conservative Heritage Foundation told the Free Beacon, "There is nothing inherently wrong with wind production if it can compete in the marketplace, but taxpayers shouldn’t be footing the bill to help it remain economically viable."

He said the subsidy has cost tens of billions of dollars and is tantamount to "shifting labor and capital around to 'politically preferred sectors of the economy.'"

The Danish company Vestas, which manufactures wind turbines and has four plants in Colorado, posted its second-best sales year ever in the North American wind market, the Business Journal reported, and has announced plans to hire 850 new employees in the Rocky Mountain State by the end of the year, bringing its total number of employees there to more than 2,000.

It already has contracts to for $1.7 billion worth of equipment for planned wind farms in the United States and Canada, according to the Journal. More than 500,000 homes can be powered as a result.

According to the Free Beacon, Vestas has been the recipient of more than $50 million from the federal government on top of the subsidies it received.

Gardner has support in Washington, including Utah Sen. Mike Lee, a Republican who has introduced legislation to eliminate "all technology-specific energy subsidies as part of his anti-crony capitalism agenda," according to the Free Beacon.

"If a particular technology is effective, it’s going to be able to prove itself on the marketplace," Lee told the newspaper. "It’s going to be profitable. We shouldn’t be providing tax credits on a technology-specific basis within the energy industry."

Loris agreed, saying Washington benefits more than anyone.

"You can’t say this is a job creator when you funnel taxpayer money into a certain sector of the economy," he said. "It’s just shifting labor and capital to where members of Congress want it."

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