- - Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Every gambler must know his limits — when to stop making bets and walk away from the table.

Uncle Sam needs to quit making bets on wind energy and, in the process, save us all about $10 billion a year. Let the industry rise, fall or spin its rotors based on its own merits, without the crony capitalism government giveaways.

It will also save money for consumers. We pay three times because wind energy raises electricity rates, on top of what we pay in federal subsidies and state subsidies.

Wind energy handouts have been a 22-year gamble. The tax credits are always labeled “temporary,” but have been renewed by Congress eight times so far. Each short-term extension just gives supporters the incentive to push for another.

Another gamble is that the wind industry bet heavily on Democrats in the 2014 elections and lost, throwing $17.5 million into supporting Senate Democrats. Now they hope Republicans will love them anyway and extend the giveaways to the industry.

Wind advocates are addicted to subsidies, just like addicted gamblers, craving one more lottery ticket, one more deal of the cards, one more throw of the dice, one more spin of the wheel. None will produce a sudden bonanza because the root of the problem doesn’t change: Wind is free but the machinery to harvest it is expensive, raising costs far above other, more affordable ways to generate electricity.

SEE ALSO: EDITORIAL: For ‘green’ energy liberals, windmills trump endangered species

The only windfall is for the wind farms. They are the only guaranteed winners, just as “the house” always wins in a casino or a lottery.

There is nothing inherently wrong with wind power. What is inherently wrong is to compel people to use the highest-cost energy. It would be equally wrong to force you to order the highest-priced meal at a restaurant, or purchase the most expensive pair of shoes, or to buy gasoline at whatever outlet charges the most.

Data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration show that electricity prices in wind-using states are skyrocketing at four times the national average increases. Nine of the 11 largest wind-power states are suffering — witness the 33 percent increase in rates in Wyoming and 26 percent increases in South Dakota.

In other places, rate increases are briefly delayed or hidden by the state subsidies. Oklahoma’s 1,700 windmills haven’t yet increased consumer prices, but only because the state government is absorbing the difference through giveaways. To date, Oklahoma taxpayers have paid over $700,000 per windmill in subsidies; official estimates say that amount will grow even higher.

Fortunately, the federal wind subsidies expired at the end of 2013. Unfortunately, a huge push is underway to revive them during the lame-duck Congress while their sponsoring liberal Democrats still control the Senate. They want to force House Republicans to revive $18 billion worth of production tax credits of $23-per-megawatt-hour, using backroom horse-trading deals to sneak the provisions into other legislation.

Wind’s business model is warped because it’s based on government, not on free enterprise. The industry confesses that because there was no subsidy, no new wind farms were announced in 2014. Zero. Zilch. Nada. That’s the biggest proof that theirs is a Solyndra-style system that depends on crony capitalism.

Today’s biggest wind energy investor, who would gain most from reviving the tax credit, is Warren Buffett. As the Omaha billionaire recently said, “We get a tax credit if we build a lot of wind farms. That’s the only reason to build them. They don’t make sense without the tax credit.”

Other energy providers have better business models. Oil and gas companies don’t get subsidies. Instead, they get tax treatment common to other businesses but which activists mislabel as subsidies. Getting money from taxpayers is a subsidy; getting to keep part of your own money is not. But even if you accepted the mislabeling, the government help for fossil fuels is peanuts compared to wind power. The Institute for Energy Research, using government calculations, reports that for each BTU of power produced, renewable energy gets 49 times more in federal incentives than do fossil fuels.

And oil and gas pay $30 billion a year into the federal treasury, while green energy drains over $10 billion a year from the federal treasury.

To justify its billions in crony capitalism, the wind industry uses claims worthy of MIT Professor Jonathan Gruber, the infamous source of false information about Obamacare. Mr. Gruber believes Americans are stupid. Do wind advocates think that Americans are suckers?

Should we not notice that they’ve already had 22 years of “temporary” tax credits? They used our money to place their bets. It’s time they were told to gamble with their own money.

Ernest Istook is a former Republican congressman from Oklahoma. Get his free email newsletter by signing up at eepurl.com/JPojD.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times is switching its third-party commenting system from Disqus to Spot.IM. You will need to either create an account with Spot.im or if you wish to use your Disqus account look under the Conversation for the link "Have a Disqus Account?". Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide