Clark: Wind Industry a Vibrant Contributor to Oklahoma Economy

Originally published in The Journal Record.

There is plenty of discussion at the state Capitol regarding the state’s $1.3 billion budget shortfall.

In order to balance the budget some anti-wind-industry proponents have suggested the zero-emission tax credit, provided by state leaders to attract wind development, should be abolished now before its mandatory sunset in 2020. In my opinion, nothing would send a worse message that Oklahoma does not honor its business commitments than prematurely pulling the rug out from developers who are in the midst of planning Oklahoma projects based on the tax credit being in place.

What our political opponents do not want the public to know is that the wind industry is a valued economic contributor to Oklahoma, having invested over $7 billion in the state since 2003 with millions of dollars returned annually to dozens of county governments, school districts and Oklahoma landowners.

The State Chamber of Oklahoma Research Foundation recently released a study, authored by Oklahoma State University economists, indicating over the multi-year span of the current and future wind development model, the wind industry is predicted to pay nearly $1.2 billion to local school districts and to Oklahoma CareerTech.

The additional revenue is allowing districts to provide students with new classrooms, state-of-the-art technology, innovative science labs, safe rooms and athletic facilities to name a few. Wind power also allows some districts to exceed the state-based per pupil expenditure of 150 percent, freeing state funds for allocation in non-wind development districts.

Another false rumor spread about is that wind power decreases natural gas usage. In fact, the natural gas industry should encourage wind industry development as they are complementary sources of electricity. Wind energy and natural gas are symbiotic in that they grow together, which is good for everyone who contributes to Oklahoma’s energy portfolio.

Eliminating the tax credit and taxing wind production, as some oil and gas executives have suggested, will make Oklahoma far less attractive to wind developers. Now is when Oklahoma must choose its message. Does Oklahoma have an all-of-the-above energy strategy that welcomes new wind power investment, or does it break its promises

Hopefully, it is the former; however, time will tell. In the meantime, it is simply unproductive and bad public relations for Oklahoma to have one energy sector pit itself against another. I urge Oklahoma’s elected leaders to recognize this.

Jeff Clark is executive director of The Wind Coalition.

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