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Wind Subsidies Find Renewal in Otherwise 'Lousy' Fiscal Deal

'Supporting renewable sources energy that must be developed if we are to reverse global warming'

Jon Queally, staff writer

Despite the absurd manner in which it was achieved, champions of alternative energy in the United States welcomed passage of extended and modified federal subsidies for the wind industry which came attached to an otherwise 'lousy' fiscal agreement passed by Congress on New Year's day.

The wind production tax credit (PTC) had been extended annually for several years, but became a political football during last year's presidential election when GOP candidate Mitt Romney vowed to cancel the program if elected. Republican lawmakers, meanwhile, did everything in their power to block its extension in Congress.

Among those applauding inclusion of the measure was Michael Brune, president of the Sierra Club, who said: "The extension of this critical tax incentive will put thousands of Americans back to work, and will ensure that the wind industry continues to provide clean, renewable energy to our homes and businesses."

Though disappointed that the final budget package only allowed Bush era tax cuts to expire for those making $450,000 or more annually—rather than the $250,000 threshold that was originally proposed—Brune said renewal of the PTC would "re-energize clean energy growth" and save tens of thousands of jobs.

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) called the passage a "win-win for our economy and our environment."

"In Vermont and across the country, hundreds of wind manufacturing plants already are producing wind turbines, and the industry is providing jobs for 75,000 American workers," Sanders said. "The fact that we have doubled wind generation since 2008 is an American success story. Extending the Production Tax Credit means we can continue the tremendous growth in wind and other safe, clean, renewable sources energy that must be developed if we are to reverse global warming."

And, as Juan Cole explained at his Informed Comment blog:

The United States has the highest per capita carbon emissions of any large, industrialized country in the world, with each American producing roughly two tons of the deadly greenhouse gas annually. In turn, the some 5 billion tons of carbon emitted by the US annually is causing rapid global warming and climate change, including the prospect of rising seas. Although US emissions have fallen since 1990, it is largely because of the economic slowdown and the resort to fracked natural gas. (Though natural gas itself is replacing dirtier coal, each of us in the US is still a carbon hog.) [...]

The US is not moving nearly quickly enough to cut its emissions. Only about 6 percent of US electricity comes from non-hydro renewables. Here in the Midwest, the regional average for electricity generated by coal — the worst of the hydrocarbon fuels — is 65%. That statistic, in 2013, is a crime akin to killing one’s mother. The storm surge that hit New York this fall was a small indication of what nature has in store for us if we go on this destructive path.

The Congressional foot dragging on renewing the wind tax credit slowed the rate of turbine installations in 2011 over 2010, and some 30,000 workers in the wind industry faced being laid off if the tax break was abolished. This outcome was plotted out by the Koch brothers (Big Carbon billionaires who like to play at politics) and other oil, gas and coal interests.


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