Thomas Pyle: Wind-energy handouts hurt Kansas

02/20/2014 6:12 PM

02/20/2014 6:12 PM

What’s the real cost of wind power? For Kansans, it’s more than $24 million in handouts to big business. According to the Institute for Energy Research, Kansans paid that much money in 2012 so that multinational corporations could experiment with wind power on the taxpayer dime – a textbook case of corporate welfare.

The culprit is a federal program called the wind production tax credit. It expired at the end of 2013, but Congress is debating whether to renew this corporate cash cow.

The evidence is mounting that these types of “green” handouts are surprisingly dirty. According to a new report by CBS News, the federal government has lavished the green-energy and technology industry with at least $150 billion in taxpayer money in recent years – with nothing to show for its efforts.

There’s no shortage of examples. Solyndra – which went bankrupt after receiving half a billion taxpayer dollars – is already well known. Abound Solar received $400 million in 2010, then filed for bankruptcy in 2012. Fisker Automotive took $528 million from the feds in 2009 and another $392 million in 2012, then laid off 75 percent of its workforce last April.

In all of these cases, poor and middle-class taxpayers came out the real losers. The winners, though, are the millionaires and billionaires who used taxpayers’ money to experiment with new technologies and business models. Our loss has been their experiential and monetary gain – even if the companies they founded go under.

Green energy’s economic impact hasn’t even been that bright. According to a comprehensive study recently released by a team of Spanish academics, each new “green job” costs the rest of the economy 2.2 other jobs because of the necessary subsidies. Each wind-powered megawatt also costs more than four jobs.

The Spanish study bears directly on America because many of our country’s green-job initiatives are based on the Spanish model. President Obama has specifically praised Spain’s green-jobs experiments as a system worth emulating.

This bears on the question of wind production tax credit and Kansas. This handout gives wind-electricity producers a lucrative taxpayer-funded subsidy of 50 to 75 percent of wind’s wholesale electricity costs. Yet electricity from new wind facilities still costs at least 30 percent more than conventionally generated electricity.

The wind production tax credit is thus a microcosm of the problems inherent in the green-energy industry. Renewing it would only worsen job creation and economic growth, while enabling green-job billionaires to continue their experiments with Kansans’ money.

There’s nothing clean about perpetuating this system.

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