Republican Senator Slams Fossil & Nuclear Energy Subsidies In Face Of Wind …

May 5, 2014 by  
Filed under Green Energy News

Clean Power
Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA)(caffeinatedthoughts.com/)

Published on May 5th, 2014
by Sandy Dechert

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Grassley

Several weeks ago Peter Sinclair of Climate Denial Crock of the Week took up the latest news from the seesawing $14 billion wind industry in the US, which is the world’s second-largest buyer of turbines. Sinclair publicized a short video of Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA, above) revealing an “intellectually dishonest” accusation put forward by Sen. Patrick J. Toomey, a fellow Republican senator from Pennsylvania, at a Senate Finance Committee hearing on April 3rd.

Despite being known as a longtime fiscal conservative, Grassley—an early supporter of solar energy and six-termer beloved to his state—strongly favors reinstating the renewable energy Production Tax Credit through 2015 in the absence of comprehensive energy tax reform. (Tina Casey and others here on CleanTechnica covered the last wind credit extension drama numerous times.)

Grassley placed 2014 wind energy tax credits firmly in context for the Finance Committee by recalling the facts about the government’s longstanding incentives for oil and gas and nuclear power. Grassley’s argument effectively squashed Toomey’s move to “eliminate crony capitalist energy tax credits”—an expression that to this writer much more aptly describes the huge tax breaks and subsidies awarded to Big Fossil Energy for over a century, and to nuclear since the 1960s.

Toomey was roundly defeated in the finance committee vote, and the Expiring Provisions Improvement Reform and Efficiency (EXPIRE) Act of 2014 (a two-year PTC extension) won approval. It will now move to the Senate floor for consideration. However, the incident serves to remind us that funding for wind power continues to “blow in the wind” (pardon the expression) in the US.

During the past month, Fox News and Bloomberg have both characterized the industry as unpopular, “reeling,” and “on a respirator.” Bloomberg blames the increase in shale gas production and the low cost of that product for slowing wind. Fox cites a report from Capital Alpha Partners that states that the appetite on Capitol Hill for continuing the PTC is declining and that fiscal hawks and competing energy interests say wind is mature enough to take off “the federal training wheels.”

Investopedia says that, like shale gas, wind has shattered records in 2013. “Installed wind energy capacity continues to hit new highs across the US,” echoing similar gains around the globe, says Society of American Business Editors and Writers investment journalist and analyst Aaron Levitt. AWEA estimates that nearly 60,000 MW of new wind projects could be set up in the US over the next few years, Levitt says—basically double the current US capacity.

In its Wind Industry Annual Market Report Year Ending 2013, released April 10 (and characterized by one reporter as “difficult reading”), the American Wind Energy Association details a historic 12,000 MW of new wind projects under construction at year’s end 2013, “record construction numbers, more business for American factories, and more deployment of wind energy that has become a new cash crop for our farmers and ranchers.”

AWEA also notes:

Operational wind energy projects, combined with the projects under construction, will avoid 115 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually—more than 5% of U.S. power sector emissions – while avoiding the consumption of over 36 billion gallons of water each year, because wind turbines use virtually no water in operation.

AWEA takes the position that the industry relies on a PTC revival to maintain “a stable business environment for further investment.”

The Freedonia Group, Inc., a Cleveland market research firm, reported at the end of March that US demand for wind turbine systems is forecast to reach $18.9 billion in 2018, a nearly ninefold increase over 2013 levels. In January, wind produced almost 5% of America’s electricity. Over 40% if the nation (21 states) is developing sites, with Texas (8 GW), Iowa (1+ GW), Kansas (700 MW), North Dakota (600 MW), and Oklahoma (nearly 500 MW) leading. Despite the current lack of a federal PTC, Freedonia still expects wind to rebound significantly due to other incentives, including feed-in tariff payments, grants from the Department of Energy, and the need to meet state-level renewable standards.

And on May 1, James Quilter, associate editor of Windpower Monthly, reminded us:

[F]or 2014, the Global Wind Energy Council… predicted a 34% surge in installations to 43GW by year end. Much of this is likely to come from the US, with Brazil and China also supplying a large proportion.

Quilter points to politics at different levels in each market and the changing structure of the industry from pure wind players toward turbine-making conglomerates like GE and Siemens as determinants of the future for wind energy.

The Senate took a recess for Easter from April 14 to April 28 and just returned on Monday. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has said he wants the full Senate to vote soon on the wind energy tax credit and other energy incentives. Ron Wyden (D-OR), chair of the Senate Finance Committee, concurs. And the largest wind energy conference in North America, WINDPOWER 2014, is coming up on Tuesday. Siemens calls it “the nexus of wind energy professionals who converge to generate actionable ideas for expanding the wind energy industry through technology and collaboration.” So look for more news on wind energy in the near future.

2013 AWEA conference (AWEA, from flickr)

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covers environmental, health, renewable and conventional energy, and climate change news. She’s worked for groundbreaking environmental consultants and a Fortune 100 health care firm, writes two top-level blogs on Examiner.com, ranked #2 on ONPP’s 2011 Top 50 blogs on Women’s Health, and attributes her modest success to an “indelible habit of poking around to satisfy my own curiosity.”


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  • Maybe a little early to declare victory, but the tide, whatever causes those, is turning.

  • The way to think of the wind and solar PTCs is as second-best proxies for the carbon taxes that coal and gas ought to pay but don’t. A “comprehensive energy tax reform” that simply abolished all energy tax breaks would not create a level playing field. It would however be enough to ensure the triumph of renewable energy.

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