Lame Duck: Level the Energy Playing Field

As we recover from the election season’s barrage of insults, advertisements, and acronyms, I don’t blame you if your eyes begin to glaze over when we mention the PTC. Unless you’re a career politician, we can all agree you’ve earned a bit of a break.

If you are a politician, though, you don’t get a break. It’s time for you to work. It’s time to extend the Production Tax Credit.

The Production Tax Credit provides the owner of a wind farm 2.2¢ per kilowatt-hour of electricity produced for the first 10 years of operation. That’s a small price to pay for an energy solution that powers rural economic development, spurs manufacturing, creates tax revenue, and moves us past our troubling reliance on fossil fuels.

But not everyone sees it that way. Discussion of the PTC often devolves into an accusation that this important subsidy results in the government picking winners and losers. It’s not right, some say, for the government to favor one industry over another.

A closer look shows the government has been playing favorites for years. It’s true that between 1994 and 2009 renewables combined received $5.93 billion in federal subsidies. But it’s also true that between 1918 and 2009 the oil and gas industry received $446.96 billion.

The nuclear industry was given $185.38 billion between 1947 and 1999. In fact, the coal industry was given $3.17 billion in 2007 alone. This doesn’t include negative externalities created by mining and burning coal. Experts claim these would cost utilities an extra 18¢ per kilowatt-hour of electricity produced.

The PTC expires on December 31. If it isn’t extended, we lose at least 37,000 American jobs. We’ll never see the 1,100 jobs created every time a major wind farm is built. We’ll miss another opportunity to see rural communities thrive.

The lame-duck session presents a final opportunity. It’s time to level the playing field. It’s time to get to work. It’s time to extend the PTC.