May 3, 2014 Updated: May 3, 2014 at 9:45 am
"I will keep fighting in Congress to ensure we keep the wind at the backs of wind-energy companies in Colorado and across our nation" Sen. Mark Udall says. While he is blowing tepid air at wind energy companies, he is doing so at the expense of American taxpayers and energy consumers. If proponents of the wind energy tax production credit really wanted to "keep wind at the backs" of energy producers and their consumers, they would fight for a competitive, unsubsidized energy marketplace.
Wind energy might be great: we would commend any energy producer who found a way to provide efficient, inexpensive, abundant, reliable, and clean energy, regardless of the source.
If it worked as Sen. Udall and his allies claim, we as consumers might even support it with our hard-earned dollars. If the product is inferior to its competition and more expensive (unless buoyed by tax-credits), we wouldn't make that investment-our money is better off elsewhere.
The wind PTC deprives us-as energy consumers and as taxpayers-of this judgment. So long as tax credits are handed to the wind energy industry, we have no choice whether we're going to support wind power. That means wind energy producers don't have to worry about providing the most affordable or most efficient product; they just need to focus on ensuring that the tax credits keep flowing. A business that focuses more on lobbying and earning special treatment rather than on attracting customers and innovating might as well call itself a government agency.
We hear Sen. Udall and his fellow proponents claim that government should subsidize new forms of energy to get them off the ground, but that argument is self-defeating. Government is terrible at picking winners and losers and making predictions in the economy; we see in practice that government consistently gets it wrong and sticks taxpayers with the bill. If tax credits and subsidies are unfair and cause the market to be uncompetitive to new entrants, then we're better off not promulgating additional unfairness. A vicious cycle of tax credits perpetuating a need for other tax credits pales in comparison to a profit-and-loss based system, where success and innovation breeds new success and innovation.
To add insult to injury, wind energy doesn't even achieve its ostensible environmental goals. Because wind tends to blow least when the demand for energy is greatest, other conventional power sources have to ramp up and down. And in the long run, if money and jobs keep getting shuttled into wind energy as opposed to other experimental sources of power, the consumer will suffer from economic resources going to their least effective venue.
Congress rightly allowed the wind production tax credit to expire at the end of 2013, but alarmingly they are poised to extend it retroactively. This past month, the Senate Finance Committee passed a measure that would extend the production tax credit (PTC) for wind power, and it will receive consideration under the full floor early this summer. If Sen. Udall were truly serious about keeping energy bills low for Colorado families, then he should vote against this extension when it comes up on the Senate floor.
The 68,000 Americans for Prosperity activists living in Colorado are calling on him to do so.
Dustin Zvonek is the Colorado state director of Americans for Prosperity.