In “Wind power key to state’s rural economy” (Point of View, March 4), Beaver County Commissioner Brad Raven outlined reasons he believed industrial wind was good for rural Oklahoma. I’d like to clear up a few misconceptions.
While the industry continues to claim that wind power is “cheap, clean and infinite” and provides discounted utility bills, it actually costs Oklahoma millions. Taxpayers heavily subsidize wind power to the tune of 2.3 cents per kilowatt hour by the federal government and .05 cents per kilowatt hour by the state. A consumer electing to use only wind energy is required to pay more, not less, for their electricity. Any “savings” reflected on utility bills are artificially inflated because we’re subsidizing every unit of power produced on the front end. We pay millions into industrial wind and they pay a net zero in taxes to Oklahoma.
Their so-called support of education through ad valorem taxes is what I find to be the most offensive and distorted fact. The wind industry, prior to Dec. 31, 2016, received an exemption from paying ad valorem taxes for five years. Instead, those taxes are paid by Oklahoma’s dwindling general revenue fund. A few schools hit a temporary jackpot, but the majority of schools suffer from a severe lack of funding. Taxpayers are currently paying ad valorem taxes for more than 90 percent of the turbines operating in Oklahoma. Give Oklahoma taxpayers a pat on the back for the additional funding of rural schools, but industrial wind owners shouldn’t get the credit.
The industry also claims to have invested billions of dollars and created thousands of jobs. In reality, that “investment” was primarily spent on goods and services outside of Oklahoma. The turbines just happened to be placed here. Only 1,600 permanent jobs have been created, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. In comparison, the $170 million Macy’s fulfillment center in Owasso is expected to produce 1,500 permanent jobs.
The royalties paid to landowners average $6,620 per turbine, based on wind industry figures. Alternatively, a 2-megawatt turbine will generate more than $39,420 each year in Oklahoma income tax credits for the owner for 10 years. The wind turbines located in Beaver County will produce more than $9 million in tax credits for its owners in 2017 compared with the approximately $1.5 million in payments to landowners.
The tax incentives for wind are really just a vicious, confusing and inefficient distribution of government funds to landowners and rural school districts. The wind industry may temporarily boost the economy in select rural counties, but the tax incentives paid by all Oklahoma taxpayers to fund wind development aren’t being used where we need them most. A better way to fund education and services that support rural Oklahoma is to eliminate the hundreds of millions of dollars paid in wind tax subsidies and invest those dollars directly into local government services – equally and fairly.
The wind industry should compete on its own merit and not rely on Oklahoma taxpayers to foot the bill.
Robson, a Craig County rancher, is co-founder of the Oklahoma Property Rights Association.