Vermont’s lone Congressman Peter Welch lobbied a key tax committee in Washington, D.C., last week, urging the extension of production tax credits for wind projects. The credits are set to expire at the end of the year. Welch said in testimony to the U.S. Ways and Means Committee that the loss of the credits would likely kill some of the wind projects proposed in Vermont.
Welch said that’s a bad thing. We say that it’s good.
Vermont Sen. Joe Benning made the same point in his failed legislative resolution to put a two-year moratorium on new industrial-sized wind farms. Benning nailed it when he said Vermont already has more electricity than it needs; the wind farms are ravaging Vermont’s ridgelines; the power they produce is intermittent and unreliable, requiring backup plants for when the wind doesn’t blow; and Shumlin’s grand plan that calls for Vermont’s energy use come from 90 percent renewable sources by 2050 is not only unachievable, but the tax subsidies that it will require in the intervening failed effort to reach it will cost Vermont taxpayers an unforgivable and unsustainable fortune.
As a centerpiece of our energy policy, wind blows. Welch, though, spoke to the Committee of the expiration of the tax credit program at the end of 2012 as a looming economic catastrophe for Vermont. He said, “Every day that Congress allows the extension of the production tax credit to hang in limbo costs the U.S. investments in renewable energy, our place in the competitive global market and the creation of new green jobs.”
Welch left out the parts about government being lousy at job creation and venture capitalism. We would all be better served if the free market is left to decide our energy fate. We certainly don’t want industry that relies exclusively on tax credits and legislative mandates.
More and more Vermonters are beginning to understand the economic fact that when the green energy subsidies disappear, so will the developers. Perry Hunt, a trustee in the village of Derby Line, put it succinctly when he told Welch, last week, that tax credits and legislation that imposes a higher electricity rate for renewable energy projects prop up the industry. “They should not be subsidized,” Hunt said. “Let these companies invest their own money. There isn’t enough benefit for the communities that host large wind projects in Vermont.”
On Wednesday the Derby Select Board rebuffed a wind developer there. We applaud that decision.
Peter Welch is really wrong. If “green” power can’t survive without the kindly hands of Washington and Montpelier, let it die.