Credit: Jefferson's Leaning Left |
December 1, 2013 |
This article (below) in Yesterday’s (Nov. 30) Albany Times Union was both disappointing and irritating to read.
The basis of the article – that the Production Tax Credit (PTC) for wind power is once again in danger of not being extended by Congress – is accurate enough. But nowhere in the long article is there any suggestion that it might be a good and reasonable idea to terminate that tax credit by letting it expire at the end of this year. Throughout, that subsidy is treated unquestioningly as a good thing and that its demise would be unfortunate.
If you’re looking for any journalistic balance in this article you won’t find it. The author, Brian Nearing, gets quotes from the president of a company that came into being to serve the wind industry, lobbyists from two different Albany based organizations that advocate for the wind industry, and a spokesperson for a New York quasi-governmental organization (NYSERDA) that supports wind power development in New York.
The most unbalanced aspect of the article is the suggestion by the author himself that the only reason that the PTC is running into trouble politically is because of “tea party Republicans” and high-powered “petrochemical interests” in Washington who are trying to kill it and are more interested in advancing the Keystone XL Pipeline to bring oil from Canada to refineries near the Gulf of Mexico. Why would tea party Republicans have a problem with the PTC? Wouldn’t that be worth just a little explanation? Why suggest that the fate of the PTC and the fate of the Keystone XL pipeline are in any way intertwined? They are not intertwined objectively. The pros and cons of these two things are not intrinsically in conflict. True, both the PTC and Keystone XL have become political footballs, but that does not explain at all why either one might be a good thing or a bad thing from an energy, environmental or cost standpoint.
And since the focus of this article is about the effect of losing the PTC on the wind industry in New York State, why not get a little opinion input from those New Yorkers in western and northern New York who have actually lived with, or with the threat of, wind development in their communities? It is from such ordinary people, in New York and all over the country, where much of the opposition has come from to extending a tax break that the wind industry depends upon. These people want the wind industry to go way and not come any closer to their homes. The adverse effect that wind development has had on the lives of real people is a major cause for grassroots opposition to extending the PTC any further. In small towns and rural areas people’s homes have become seriously devalued because of huge wind turbines looming nearby, destroying attractive scenic qualities the properties once enjoyed and creating incessant noise. In many instances, people’s homes have been rendered unlivable and unsalable.
The fact that some environmental organizations are now finally beginning to question wind development, and the tax credit that underpins it, because of steadily increasing knowledge about the extent of bird and bat kills from wind turbines is not even given passing mention.
Brian Nearing has easy access to news from the communities in northern and western New York where wind projects have been constructed and where others are proposed. I can assure you thousands of people in those communities are very well-informed about the obscure PTC and the major role that it has played in incentivizing wind developers to go prospecting in places in places in New York where they are not wanted. Those thousands of New Yorkers would be delighted to see the PTC go away and never come back. A little bit of feedback from those communities would have made Mr. Nearing’s story more informative and more balanced.
Instead, we got a one sided and all too predictable bias from the Albany Times Union.
Wind energy facing political headwinds
Area company closely watching if Congress will renew subsidy
Brian Nearing, Times Union
Bruce H. Bailey, Ph.D., President and CEO of AWS TruePower, a company that does wind forecasting for wind turbine projects, in his company’s media room in Albany, NY on Thursday December 16, 2010. ( Philip Kamrass / Times Union )
It’s deja vu all over again for Bruce Bailey. As founder and president of Latham-based alternative energy company AWS Truepower, Bailey is again watching the looming demise of a key federal tax break meant to encourage more wind power projects.
Should Congress not renew a subsidy called the Production Tax Credit, due to end Dec. 31, it would mark the fourth time since 2000 the credit has lapsed when Congress declined to renew it. Each time, wind projects plummeted afterward.
Bailey said he is “mentally prepared for the production tax credit to go away,” although he rated the odds of it being extended at the last minute – like it was last year during the so-called “fiscal cliff” negotiations – at 50-50.
His 29-year-old alternative energy planning company, which helps develop wind and solar energy projects, has worked in more than 30 states, as well as 60 countries. Calling the repeated peril to the wind credit “perpetual politics,” Bailey said his company is shifting more attention overseas to deal with “uncertainty” in U.S. energy policy.
With an office in India, AWS Truepower also recently incorporated in Brazil, Bailey said. It also has created partnerships with similar alternative energy companies in Turkey and Poland, where wind energy projects continue to move forward.
The firm has also added services beyond its original mission of providing mapping and projections for wind and solar site availability, and now offers due diligence services to potential buyers or investors in existing wind farms, and construction monitoring for wind farm construction in countries like Canada, Mexico and Peru, Bailey said.
Eric Whalen, of Environment New York, said in 2000, 2002 and 2004 – years when the wind credit was allowed to expire temporarily—new wind installations dropped by 93 percent, 73 percent and 77 percent, respectively, in the following years. He said the political outlook for extending the credit beyond 2013 appears “pretty dismal.”
Renewal of the wind tax credit, which can provide up to $1 million to developers of a large turbine, is a politically contentious issue. In addition to tea party congressional Republicans, opposition to continuing the wind credit comes from the American Energy Alliance, a Washington, D.C.-based industry group linked to petrochemical interests that promote expanded drilling for fossil fuels, including in the protected Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, and approval of the proposed XL pipeline to bring Canadian tar sands oil to refineries in Texas and the Gulf Coast.
“This lack of certainty over the wind credit creates a boom and bust cycle, which is really detrimental to wind project developers,” said Valerie Strauss, executive director of Alliance for Clean Energy New York, an Albany-based lobbying group for alternative energy companies.
One such local business is Gloversville-based Tetra Tech Construction. Its website says it has built 21 wind projects in the U.S. It is currently involved in building the Orangeville wind farm outside of Buffalo, owned by Chicago-based Invenergy, and the only wind farm project under construction this year.
A Tetra Tech official declined comment, referring questions to a corporate office; phone calls to that office were not returned.
An Invenergy spokeswoman declined comment.
“The potential loss of the Production Tax Credit certainly presents a challenge for renewable projects, not just in New York state but around the country,” said Dayle Zatlin, a spokeswoman for the New State Energy Research and Development Authority, which implements programs to encourage more alternative sources in the state’s electricity mix.
Zatlin said the agency is “evaluating a number of funding alternatives or structural changes that could help offset the loss of the (tax credit) and reinvigorate the market.”
Wind energy plans have been shrinking in the state, as the industry faces a glut of cheap natural gas from hydrofracking, uncertainty over federal support and dwindling financing. The amount of wind power expected to one day plug into the state’s electrical grid has fallen by more than two-thirds since 2009 as developers shelve projects.
Read the rest…..
Jefferson's Leaning Left |
December 1, 2013 |
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