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Wind Energy PTC Extension Essential, Beneficial for Rural America, Entire U.S.

January 25, 2013

Audio with Howard Learner, Environmental Law and Policy Center executive director (MP3 2.4 MB) Download Windows Media Player. Time: 00:02:30.

The wind power Production Tax Credit championed in the 1990s by Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley is an incentive to help spur wind power development in rural America. Environmental Law and Policy Center Executive Director Howard Learner says oil, gas, coal, and nuclear power all get a wide array of federal subsidies and the wind power PTC that was extended by Congress on January 1 supports rural economic development.

The PTC has been a start-stop program and Learner says that sort of instability doesn't help move development forward.

"Developers need more predictability and more certainty. Wind power development in rural America is good for farmers' income. It provides a new source of income when land payments are made for installing wind turbines. It's good for rural economic development and jobs, and it increases property tax bases and other employment. And it's good for the environment. This is a win, win, win. Extending the Production Tax Credit is going to spur more wind power development, and that's going to provide a domestic, clean energy supply source, make us less reliant on other energy coming in. It's going to be good for farmers' income, good for rural economic development, and good for the environment. Altogether it's win, win, win."

Some people says wind energy should be able to stand on its own without government subsidies, but Learner says everything has to be on a level playing field especially since gas, coal, nuclear power, and oil all get federal subsidies.

"You can really adopt two approaches. You can adopt an approach and be sort of Peter Pan and wave your magic wand and say we're going to get rid of subsidies for everything. And that's an intellectually consistent policy, and it's one that as we know, Congress has had a very difficult time doing. But to single out wind power and say we're going to continue taxpayer subsidies for coal and nuclear and oil and gas, but wind, you don't get any support. That's not fair, and it doesn't work well. It puts wind power in a competitive disadvantage. So we need to have a level playing field."

Learner says wind power makes sense and is supported by Republicans and Democrats and people living in urban and rural areas. In a time when farm policies are so hotly contested before Congress, he says it's important to form policies for rural America that can gain support from people living in cities and suburbs too. Ultimately, Learner says wind energy is good for creating jobs and economic development—among other things—and the PTC extension is essential to making those happen.