Wind Power Tax Credit Passage Made Easy: Buy Off Republicans

At the time of a 2008 attempt to vote on the production tax credit (PTC), the writer Todd Woody noted it was the eighth Republican Senate filibuster to kill the wind PTC.

And, yeah: This month, once again, Senate Republicans prevented an up-or-down vote on extending the PTC, just as they have done for a decade or more. And as it has done each time, killing the PTC (again) will once again cripple U.S. wind power development for the next year.

image via Shutterstock

New industries like solar and wind needs subsidies like the PTC to get established, allowing mass production to bring costs down. That takes decades. Republicans did nothing to prevent support for the fossil industry, which got its first support in the 19th century and which continues to this day. But Republicans and the think tanks that control them advocate wherever they can to prevent the same support for renewable energy.

Like so many wind developers, in anticipation of the PTC possibly going down, Exel announced that it was hesitating on wind plans for 2012.

There is nothing new about this—Republicans have been voting against clean energy before President Obama even arrived in the Senate. But every year, most of the media acts surprised, as if it is something new. Or worse, as if it is right that in a democracy you need 60 votes to pass a bill that Democrats want to vote on.

If you look at some of these previous roll call votes 2007 and 2008, you will notice that these votes “fail” with more than 50 votes yeas, and only 40-some votes nays. As this typical recent cloture vote that prevented a vote to end oil and gas subsidies shows, having over 50 Democrats is just not enough.

By using the cloture vote, which requires 60 senators to agree that they are “ready” to vote, Republicans are able to prevent a vote from being taken on bills that the majority of voters elected a Democratic majority Senate to vote yes on. This has been going on whether there is a Republican-majority House or a Democratic-led House. All legislation can be stopped at the Senate if there are fewer than 60 Democrats. The underhanded tactic of this minority rule is maddening.

Any time 40 Republicans get into the 100-seat Senate, they are able to stymie voting procedure in this way, and control legislation by what is essnetially cheating. And it is not hard to get 40 or more Republicans to prevent legislation in the Senate with their fake “majority,” because even the 10 or so states with just a few hundred-thousand voters, like Wyoming, are allotted two senators.

So, how to overcome this perennial obstacle? I suggest it is time for the international renewable energy industry to work together to start buying Republicans. After all, it only took money to secure these persistent votes against renewable energy.

The international renewable energy industry will simply need to get together and buy themselves some Republicans in the U.S. Congress, the same way the fossil energy industry does. Here are the 2012 oil and gas money purchases of sitting Republicans, an indication of the kind of money the renewable energy industry will need to beat:

Berg, Rick (R-N.D.) $237,450
Rehberg, Denny (R-Mont.) $231,416
Boehner, John (R-Ohio) $207,900
McCarthy, Kevin (R-Calif.) $157,200
Flores, Bill (R-Texas) $144,756
Paul, Ron (R-Texas) $139,937
Pompeo, Mike (R-Kan.) $139,000
Camp, Dave (R-Mich.) $137,500
Upton, Fred (R-Mich.) $124,500
Cantor, Eric (R-Va.) $119,800
Sullivan, John (R-Okla.) $118,200
Fleming, John (R-La.) $117,500
Hensarling, Jeb (R-Texas) $108,050
Gardner, Cory (R-Colo.) $96,250
Barton, Joe (R-Texas) $85,250
Olson, Pete (R-Texas) $83,900
Murphy, Tim (R-Penn.) $83,300
Scalise, Steve (R-La.) $82,400
Boustany, Charles (R-La.) $82,050
Pearce, Steve (R-N.M.) $77,350

(The remaining 222 House Republicans would each cost under $77,300 each, each election cycle.)

Then you’d have to beat these sums for these new House candidates:
Williams, Michael (R-Texas) $191,650
Landry, Jeff (R-La.) $75,434
Lankford, James (R-Okla.) $70,050


  • Reply April 29, 2012


    Susan, I am with you in spirit. But the amounts listed above fall far short of expressing the economic grip that the fossil fuel industry has over American public policy. That grip is loosening as the reality of global warming sets in (for a second time). Whatever will become of the PTC? We will see. But it is hard to imagine the Republicans missing the obvious: clean, renewable energy is a much bigger economic engine than oil, coal and gas.

  • Reply September 22, 2012

    G.I. G

    As a college student in Colorado currently researching Senator Mark Udall’s stance on energy issues, I feel obligated to comment and say that you would NOT need to buy out-buy his $30,200 campaigns from oil interests for two reasons:

    1. He is ALREADY one of the biggest supporters pushing for the renewal of the PTC
    2. He already has been “bought away” from oil interests. His top campaign contributor is the League of Conservation voters, who at $69,129 ( already more than doubles the campaign contributions coming from oil.

    So it is absolutely unnecessary to include Udall in the total needed to buy-off. These reasons doesn’t even touch on his past voting record (pro-renewables) or his other campaign contributions from pro-renewable/pro-environment interests. This lack of oversight when writing this article makes me question the quality of research put into it and, inherently, the credibility of the whole thing. This seems to be written based on emotion and accusation more than facts and an understanding of the legislative process.

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