Bending to the wind, Congress revives green energy credits


IT BLOWS: Free-market groups such as Americans for Prosperity urged Congress to halt renewable energy credits, but the vote wasn’t even close.

By Kenric Ward |

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Another year, another $10 billion for renewable energy credits.

The lame-duck House of Representatives this week voted to extend controversial tax credits for “green” power projects, using the U.S. Treasury to keep the government-dependent industry on life support.

As in previous years, the Production Tax Credit program — skewed heavily toward wind and solar projects — lapsed at the end of 2013. But as reported last month, industry lobbyists worked overtime to convince congressional Democrats and Republicans to retroactively renew it.

Bloomberg News reported Thursday that the House voted 378-46 to extend the credits through 2014. If the Senate goes along, as expected, the action sets up yet another year-end scramble in 2015.

“This is a lousy way to run a tax code; it’s a lousy way to run a government,” said U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, a Wisconsin Democrat. “I reluctantly support it.”

For now, renewable energy companies can claim a last-minute victory with H.R. 5771.

“A one-year extension is an early Christmas present from the House Republicans to big wind manufacturers like GE and a number of foreign-owned companies,” groused Thomas Pyle, president of the American Energy Alliance, which has criticized the PTC program for distorting the market.

AEA estimates that wind power is more than 125 percent more expensive than natural gas-generated electricity and 90 percent more costly than coal-fired generation.

The only way wind producers stay in business is with the taxpayers’ help, Pyle said.

Free-market groups call highly subsidized wind- and solar-power projects “central building blocks” in the Obama administration’s war on coal.

When the tax credit expired in 2013, new wind installations came to a halt, resulting in a 92 percent drop in new wind projects compared to 2012 and a $23 billion drop in private investment in the U.S. economy, according to the American Wind Energy Association, which represents companies such as GE Energy and Florida-based wind farm developer NextEra Energy Inc., Bloomberg said.

Solar power ventures have ridden a similar roller-coaster ride at public expense, garnering even larger government subsidies per kilowatt than wind.

Kenric Ward is a national correspondent for Contact him at (571) 319-9824. @Kenricward