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Critics: Market, not taxpayers, should fund new energy projects

Critics of green energy incentives say the federal government shouldn’t gamble with taxpayer dollars – especially when they often go to the politically connected.

“I think if wind projects are economically competitive they shouldn’t need the taxpayers’ help in getting these projects off the ground,” said Nick Loris, senior policy analyst in energy and environment at the Heritage Foundation. “There’s a huge demand for electricity, and that’s not going to go away anytime soon. It should be determined by the market – not the taxpayer.”

Loris said incentives for green energy often go to politically wired projects rather than those that are financially viable.

“Whether they’re Democrats or Republicans – if it stands to benefit their state, they don’t care if the rest of us have to pay for it,” Loris said. “That’s not how energy policy should work.”

Critics of renewable energy incentives point to solar-panel-maker Solyndra, which received $528 million in federal loans before going bankrupt in 2011.

“There’s definitely been a lot of government projects that have gone on to be profitable,” Loris said. “But to me it’s an argument that they didn’t need the government loans in the first place. There are a lot of good ideas out there, and those are the projects that will be able to secure private financing.”

However, supporters of the incentives argue other energy industries get the same help and the nation should invest in homegrown resources. Peter Kelley, a spokesman for American Wind Energy Association, says the government already subsidizes natural gas and nuclear energy, and incentives help create investments in wind farms.

“Homegrown energy is very important to everyone across the political spectrum, and this is a huge source of energy within our borders,” said Kelley. “The benefit of wind is you sign a 20-year contract, and the price gets locked in, whereas the price of natural gas is volatile from year to year.”

Kelley also defended federal loan guarantees, saying they have a better track record than most private businesses. “They may not have perfect record,” he said. “But they have a much higher track record than the economy as a whole.”