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Floor Speech: Spend More on Clean Energy Research Instead of Wasteful Wind Tax Credit

I have come to the floor to talk about the wind production tax credit which is so generous that in some markets wind developers can actually give away their electricity for free and still make a profit.

The wind production tax credit has been extended 11 times and has been on the books for more than 25 years.

Four years ago we thought it was ended.

Congress asked taxpayers to provide another $24 billion, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation, to extend the wind production tax credit another 5 years and gradually phase out the credit.

This is on top of the $9.6 billion taxpayers paid between 2008 and 2015, and the billions more taxpayers provided since the wind production credit was created in 1992.

That was supposed to be the end of it.

And now, some members of Congress are trying to break the agreement to end the wind production tax credit.

The House Ways & Means Committee earlier this summer reported legislation that extends the wind production tax credit through the end of 2020.

The huge amount of money is not the only thing wrong with this proposal.

First, the wind production tax credit undercuts reliable electricity like nuclear power.

This is called negative pricing which is when wind developers can give away their electricity and still make money.

If you are a wind developer, for every kilowatt hour of electricity one of those 40-story high windmills produces, the taxpayers will pay you up to 2.3 cents – which in some markets can be more than the cost of the wholesale value of each kilowatt hour of electricity.

Negative pricing distorts the marketplace and puts at risk more reliable forms of energy, such as nuclear power, which produces nearly 60 percent of all of the carbon free electricity in the United States. In contrast, wind power produces under 19 percent of our carbon free electricity.

With nuclear energy available – expecting the United States to operate on windmills is the energy equivalent of going to war in sailboats.

Second, in my view, windmills destroy rather than save the environment.

You could run these obtrusive, 40-story structures from Georgia to Maine to produce electricity, scarring the entire eastern landscape. Or you could produce the same amount of electricity with eight nuclear power plants.

And then you would still need natural gas or nuclear power plants to produce electricity when the wind is not blowing, which is most of the time.

There is a much better way to spend the dollars that are available for clean energy.

Instead of subsidizing wind developers we could be using that money to double the nearly $6.6 billion we spend on basic energy research to make truly bold breakthroughs that will help us provide cleaner, cheaper energy, and raise family incomes.

Earlier this year, I came to the Senate floor and called for a New Manhattan Project for Clean Energy, a five year project with Ten Grand Challenges that will use American research and technology to put our country and the world firmly on a path toward cleaner, cheaper energy.

Specifically, I encouraged making breakthroughs in:

advanced nuclear reactors
natural gas
carbon capture
better batteries
greener buildings
electric vehicles
cheaper solar
advanced computing
doubling energy research funding

Let wind energy go where it should go, unsubsidized, into the free market.