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Wind in the News: If Wind Subsidies are Cut, What About the Fossil Fuel Arena

From the Tahlequah Daily Press
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Could somebody please hand Sen. James Lankford a calculator? For a man who claims to be bent on saving the taxpayers money, he doesn’t seem to have much of a head for figures.

Lankford this week was introducing legislation to phase out the renewable energy production tax credit over a 10-year period. This federal perk props up all forms of renewable energy, but has become a favorite conservative target due to its apparent enrichment of the wind power industry.

Oklahoma now ranks fourth in the nation in wind energy production, which is one reason Lankford wants it off the federal teat. His viewpoint would be understandable, and even commendable in some quarters, if he weren’t turning a blind eye toward the massive coffer-draining subsidies that continue flowing toward the natural gas, coal, and oil industries.

In a written statement reported by the Tulsa World, Lankford had this to say: “The [production tax credit] was put in place to encourage new innovations and supply our country with diverse energy. I am a fan of an all-of-the-above energy strategy, and I certainly support wind as a large part of that goal. The wind industry has made major strides over the past two decades, and they have proven their industry to be efficient and self-sustainable. There is no need for the taxpayer to continue to subsidize a wind start-up tax credit.”

Is Lankford suggesting the fossil fuel industry is so weak and helpless that it needs those continuing subsidies to survive, or that it hasn’t made “major strides” during the many decades of its existence?

When you compare the taxpayer funds for renewables and fossil fuels – there’s really no comparison. The renewable energy production credit, which started in 1992, now sits at a 10-year benefit at 2.3 cents per kilowatt hour. That’s just for wind, closed-loop biomass and geothermal electricity; other forms can draw 1.1 cents per kWh hour. Some Senate Democrats would like to renew the tax program – which would also cover solar energy – and another subsidy through 2017, then phase them out according to greenhouse gas emission targets.

Lankford objects, though; he says a previous extension of the tax credit is already going to cost $10.5 billion in 10 years. He and other like-minded politicians – and the industry executives who have certain politicians tucked securely into their pockets – claim the tax credit gives renewables an “unfair advantage” over the poor, beleaguered coal and natural gas industries.

What Lankford fails to mention is that carbon-based energy producers come in for a whopping $700 billion subsidy per year, whereas renewables rake in about $11 billion a year.

Given the data, it’s hard to understand why Lankford would batten upon the wind industry, and give his pals in the fossil fuel arena a pass. Why not just admit outright that he wants to prop up the latter, and give the former a tougher row to hoe?

If Lankford really wants to crusade as a taxpayer advocate, he should also start trying to pare down subsidies for Big Oil. But we can expect that to happen about the same time some enterprising company starts exporting winter coats to Hades.