A renewed future for America's wind energy
The Kansas City Star
A renewed future
for U.S. wind energy
This week’s smart decision by Congress to extend a federal tax credit for wind power is encouraging news, particularly in Kansas.
Gov. Sam Brownback and U.S. Sens. Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran had pushed to keep the tax credit as part of the fiscal cliff negotiations. All three Republicans had to spend time battling fellow members of their party, especially in the U.S. House, who opposed the extension.
However, on Tuesday, the budget bill passed in Washington extended the credit of 2.2 cents a kilowatt hour through the end of this year, past its original extension date of Dec. 31, 2012.
The decision will save up to 37,000 jobs in the industry, according to the American Wind Energy Association, and make it more financially feasible for the industry to compete with other subsidized energy sources such as oil and coal.
Utilities around the country will get more time to install wind farms, such as the newly operating Flat Ridge 2 in southern Kansas. The largest source of wind power ever built in the state, it can supply electricity to 160,000 houses.
However, the uncertain fate of the wind tax credit in the latter months of 2012 did damage to the industry. Companies laid off employees and cut production of wind power equipment late in the year. After installing an estimated 11,800 megawatts of power in 2012, the industry plans to add only 4,800 megawatts in 2013.
The more upbeat news is that growth could pick up in 2014, as more turbines are built and farms are planned. The extension also should give the wind industry more time to make technological changes improving the efficiency of its turbines.
As Brownback and others have correctly noted for months, clean and renewable wind power is a good investment in the state’s future. It creates jobs, reduces pollution and trims reliance on coal-fired power plants.
With the extension of the tax credit, and with more budget talks looming in Washington, Congress soon must take a fresh look at all the subsidies it supplies to various energy industries. That includes wind, oil, coal, natural gas and nuclear power.
The U.S. tax code certainly could be revamped to reduce all energy subsidies. But it must be done carefully. Fossil fuels cause a tremendous amount of environmental damage, and that must be taken into account. So should the long-term costs of burying spent nuclear power rods.
For now, it’s appropriate that Congress has decided to continue investing in wind power as a clean source of future, homegrown power for Kansans and other Americans.