Nebraska seems determined to play the game of “catch the wind.” We have been less than breezy about the wind energy industry, and very little has changed to change our minds. But the Legislature has another opinion, clearly.
It seems that wind energy is only viable with government subsidy. The end of 2012 was a nerve-racking time, as the 2013 budget did not include the interminable extensions of the wind production tax credit. It was initiated in 1992 to get the industry started and 21 years later it appears the industry is still getting started. The PTC was extended as a result of the fiscal cliff discussions and has levied for its seventh extension.
Regardless, Nebraska seems compelled to get into the incentive game, although Nebraska is rated as the fourth-best wind energy potential state. That indicates there is a supply of wind. What it also indicates, since Nebraska is 26th in wind energy production, is a significant lack of demand for wind energy. Yet, neighboring states have tax incentives, so the Nebraska Legislature is hell bent on punching that ticket.
Governor Heineman has indicated he is going to do some punching as well. He has stated he will veto the bill saying that he would rather give tax incentives to the citizens of Nebraska rather than corporations from out of state. Who can argue with that? (Evidently 38 legislators who voted to approve the sales tax breaks and, we suspect, a number of wind energy association public relations personnel.)
The Platte Institute has written a rather compelling piece on wind energy and specifically wind energy in Nebraska. The conclusions are less than rosy for wind.
According to a 2010 International Energy Agency study, considering a host of costs, wind energy is the most expensive energy in the world. The EIA predicts that wind will be “between 49 and 77 percent more expensive than coal and natural gas in 2016.” Also, the power density of wind would utilize land the size of Rhode Island to equal the power generated by a nuclear plant utilizing 19 square miles.
There are studies that challenge just how effective tax incentives are as actual job producers. Yet, as states and cities vie for industry, these programs are being offered as a matter of accepted business practice.
It is probably unrealistic to eliminate them completely, nationwide. But, it would be interesting to witness the site selections if they were based only on the taxing environment of the state, the quality of the life and the availability of qualified and ambitious workforce.
The Platte Institute column, “The Winds of Corporate Welfare” can be viewed at www.platteinstitute.org.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding