The wind industry is furious Wyoming plans to raise taxes on a wind power project meant to provide electricity to Californians, The Los Angeles Times reported.
The Renewable Energy Association of Landowners and environmental groups claim the proposed tax increase could kill one of the world’s largest planned wind farms, worth $8 billion. Representatives of the Power Company of Wyoming, which is behind the project, told The Los Angles Times Sunday any taxes would put the project out of business.
But supporters of the wind energy tax say companies opposed to taxes are exaggerating.
“I wouldn’t worry about that honestly, Wyoming has the best location for wind,” Wyoming Republican state Sen. Cale Case, an economist who serves on the state legislature’s taxation committee, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
“We studied this fairly thoroughly several years ago,” Case told TheDCNF. “The wind power is generated here, but we don’t get very much from it. Some of us look at the tax as a way of addressing the damages that wind power puts on our state, the wind industry puts a lot of strain on our roads and other state infrastructure.”
Wyoming has collected about $15 million from current taxes from existing wind turbines since 2012, which is small compared to an estimated $625 million in taxes from the oil and natural gas industry the state collected in 2015 alone.
Case worries too many wind turbines could ruin the state’s tourism industry and outdoor feel.
“Wind turbines are an irreversible change to the landscape, they’ll be there practically forever” Case said. “We don’t need the wind power in Wyoming. This will be 1,000 times more wind generation than our population could possibly use. This industry doesn’t really pay most taxes and it won’t create that many jobs. The kind of production tax that we’re talking about is very modest.”
Construction on thePower Company of Wyoming’s 1,000 wind turbines is scheduled to start next year, but when fully developed, the project would create fewer than 150 jobs in Wyoming. That’s not many jobs when compared to other manufacturing industries. The oil and gas downturn cost Wyoming 5,400 jobs in 2015 alone.
“So the power to tax is the power to destroy after all,” Myron Ebell, director of the Center for Energy and Environment at the libertarian Competitive Enterprise Institute, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “But the wind lobby already knew this when they campaigned for Obama’s war on coal. Maybe the proposal should be called the Poetic Justice Tax.”
The wind industry has received a total of $176 billion worth of subsidies since 2000, according to information from Subsidy Tracker. Of this money, roughly $2.9 billion came from local and state governments; $9.4 billion came from federal subsidies and tax credits; and $163.9 billion was provided by government supported loans or loan guarantees. Almost all wind projects need to take advantage of federal and state tax incentives to remain financially competitive.
“Governments will always want to tax whatever they can,” Chris Warren, a spokesperson for the pro-energy industry Institute for Energy Research, told TheDCNF. “[T]he wind industry’s reaction indicates that they aren’t a competitive industry since they don’t think they can survive with the same taxes that other energy resources are subjected to, even with the lavish subsidies they receive.”
The proposed Wyoming wind project wouldn’t generate a single watt of power in the state. Instead, the power would be shipped through a new 750-mile transmission line to California and used to fight global warming.
“The benefits of wind are disproportionately on the West Coast, and the costs of wind are disproportionately in Wyoming – and I mean the social costs,” Case continued. “This tiny reflection of the impacts back here, I think it’s just kind of a fair trade.”
Around the world, the rate of growth of wind power is continuing to slow down, according to a 2015 report by the International Energy Agency. The wind industry is growing at it slowest rate in years due to changes in the structure of subsidies, issues with reliability, and consistently high prices.
Investment in wind power is expected to substantially decline due to slowing growth as tax incentives and other subsidies expire. The relatively slow growth of wind power capacity means that large numbers of people simply are not getting much of their electricity from wind. Wind power produced a mere 4.7 percent of all electricity generated in the U.S. last year, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.