It’s simple: we need reliable energy sources to power our lives and economy. In the U.S., the federal government helps address this need by offering a range of incentives from tax credits to subsidies to help companies maintain energy production and develop new capacity.
Fossil fuel companies have benefited tremendously from this practice for years, receiving billions of dollars each year in government subsidies while becoming some of the richest companies in the world. They’ve even managed to make these benefits a permanent feature of the U.S. tax code, as currently written. The result is that these companies can plan for the long term and invest in staff, equipment, and other business expenses knowing they can count on continued taxpayer support. (These benefits also mean that—for the foreseeable future—our tax dollars will keep going to support the companies most responsible for most of the carbon pollution driving climate change.)
Renewable energy companies don’t have this same certainty, relying instead on short-term incentives that come and go depending on the whims of Congress. And a very important one providing a tax credit for companies developing new wind power capacity is about to expire at the end of this month unless Congress reauthorizes it.
It’s hard to imagine this happening at a worse time, not just for the industry, but for all of us relying on the growth of clean energy to contain future climate change. The reason: wind is growing—in a big way. Between 2000 and 2012, the electricity generated from wind sources in the U.S. grew 2,405 percent. [PDF] (That’s not a typo.) In Iowa, wind is generating almost 25 percent of the state’s electricity, saving the carbon pollution equivalent of 1.7 million cars on the road.
Meanwhile, in that same period, electricity from coal declined 23 percent. It’s enough of a shift to worry the fossil fuel industry, which has been actively lobbying against the extension, pretending the credit amounts to welfare while conveniently ignoring the exponentially greater federal support it receives. And that should tell us something.
What’s at stake with the Wind Production Credit—and the extension fight—isn’t just a key part of wind power’s future. It’s a key part of our future too. As the increasing costs and devastation from carbon pollution drive a shift from dirty fossil fuels, we need clean energy capacity ready to pick up the slack. It’s simple.
This is where incentives like the Wind Production Tax Credit come in. Construction and regulatory issues can stretch the development timeline for new power facilities on for years. Incentives like the production credit help companies proceed with the confidence that after investing billions, they’ll be around to cut the tape on opening day. These incentives also provide investors with the confidence to support renewable projects. When the writing is on the wall for fossil fuels, it’s just smart planning. Plus, with more wind energy, there’s less carbon pollution. And that means less likelihood of devastating Dirty Weather events we all pay for, events like the biblical rains and flooding in Coloradothis fall or Super-Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. We all win.
But for this to happen, we have to protect key policy instruments like this production credit against an industry only too happy to flex its muscle in short-sighted service of its bottom line. (And when is it not?) So let your senator and Congressional representative know that extending the credit is really important to you. Because it’s really important to all of us.
Editor’s Note: EarthTechling is proud to repost this article courtesy of the Climate Reality Project.