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    Unions Urge Government To Keep Subsidizing Wind Energy
    By Hank Campbell | July 8th 2012 04:30 AM | 8 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Hank

    I'm the founder of Science 2.0® and co-author of "Science Left Behind".

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    When the only organization who thinks continued funding of your technology is the United Steelworkers union, you may have a business problem.

    Gamesa Wind Corporation has announced a layoff of 165 workers at plants in Fairless Hills and Ebensburg, Pa.  The United Steelworkers (USW) says non-renewal of the the Production Tax Credit (PTC), which expires on December 31st, 2012, is the problem.

    "The PTC is vital to creating a strong U.S. renewables market with clean energy manufacturing jobs," said USW International President Leo W. Gerard. "Without it, there is little incentive for existing U.S. wind manufacturers to keep doing business here. Nor is there any incentive for other wind manufacturers to invest in the domestic wind sector."

    There are two reasons is it is not attractive for the wind sector in America.  One reason is that when green energy companies try to build in America, and don't use union employees and therefore eliminate themselves from being competitive, they get bogged down in greenmail lawsuits.  The second reason is that people of 700 years ago knew wind power was not viable and we haven't gotten any smarter.

    The PTC costs $4.1 billion over 10 years and includes other renewable schemes like geothermal power. Energy companies receive 2.2 cents per kilowatt-hour generated from taxpayers - but only once turbines are producing power so it is already a better program than solar energy sinkholes.  It's not the worst thing we fund but wind power is never going to take off anywhere and certainly geothermal will not work in America.

    The USW only care about wind power because Gamesa used the right employees, not because the union, with a million members in areas as odd as flight attendants and travel agencies, thinks wind vanes are going to save the planet or America.  Wind is an artificial market, propped up by the government - it would not exist without government largess. The PTC has died before and the industry collapsed with it.  Gamesa has no orders for its products in 2013.

    "Long-term extension of the PTC is absolutely necessary to allow the U.S. wind sector the time it needs to grow, so it can compete with other clean energy sectors and other nations," said USW International Vice President Tom Conway.  

    20 years is not long enough time?  This is about a job works program, not clean energy or American economic strength.  

    Despite the perception that Democrats are in the pocket of unions, President Obama has tried to stand up to them in the past.  During his presidential honeymoon period, he advocated merit pay for teachers, before recently gutting No Child Left Behind, and its attempts at standards and accountability, to placate the education unions.  And Republicans are not anti-union. The credit expired seven times in 10 years and a Republican Congress brought it back to life most of those times. PTC has been blocked this year because Democratic sponsors have attached what many on both sides of the aisle regard as a reasonable idea to larger, unfunded pork barrel projects.

    We're going to hear the usual nonsense about how 'investment' will follow if this tax credit is renewed. If investment only happens when the government is behind it, the program is likely not very good.   As I said, while it isn't great, it isn't the worst thing we waste money on. They only get money if they can get the plants built, unlike the fiascoes in solar power the Department of Energy has saddled us with. $4 billion is still something to think about because if energy companies that employ hundreds of thousands of people are called tax dodgers for getting a credit to remain viable in America, it isn't right to give it to other companies that make no money and would collapse without taxpayers - but happen to be pet projects of the administration and unions.

    Comments

    Your premise is entirely incorrect. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Farm Bureau Federation, and the Edison Electric Institute (political arm of the utility industry), among others, also support extension of the federal wind energy Production Tax Credit (PTC).--Tom@AWEA (American Wind Energy Association)

    Hank
    My premise is not incorrect.  My premise is that unions are self-serving and wind power does not work.  Both of those things are quite clear.  Claiming a power company lobbying group supports $4 billion in subsidies for alternatives their customers are required to build by federal law is not really proving much.

    As I noted, plenty of Republicans and Democrats in Congress support this too. That does not make my 'premise' incorrect, unless we are suddenly to believe politicians are super-smart about science and responsible with someone else's money.
    Your premise is incorrect--you said "the only organization who thinks continued funding of your technology is the United Steelworkers Union," and that is wrong, as I indicated (there are many other organizations who support an extension--I just mentioned a few of the most prominent non-union ones). Your response to my comment addresses the Edison Electric Institute, but doesn't mention the U.S. Chamber or the American Farm Bureau Federation.--Tom@AWEA

    Hank
    If the members of the US Chamber of Commerce or the American Farm Bureau Federation thought it was that good of an idea, it wouldn't need subsidies at all - their members would all be getting rich building wind power plants.  And yet the industry cannot exist without government intervention. 

    It's easy to advocate 'funding' when a whole bunch of other people are paying for it.  Those two groups also endorsed funding ethanol, despite the fact that it was always crap, led to worse gas mileage, was worse for the environment and led to higher food prices.   You need to get over your fetish for lobbyist endorsements equaling quality. But since you are a lobbyist, I don't think that will happen.
    Wind doesnt work? Its only problem is that it isnt a 24hr source (but efficient utility scale storage will be coming online (<10yr?) to help smooth that out) Wind is more economical than Coal per kwH if you factor in the over 100 billion in annual health care costs that comes from using that fossil fuel. It has more of a lead if you factor in Coal's enormous subsidies. Hank,Id love it if you could research the whole story and then do a re-write. Lets see how objective you can be...

    Hank
     Wind is more economical than Coal per kwH if you factor in the over 100 billion in annual health care costs that comes from using that fossil fuel.
    ha ha Okay, so if we use pretend lobbyist statistics, like $100 billion in health care costs that coal can be blamed for, then wind is more 'efficient' - talk about apples and oranges.  Please tell me how many square miles of wind vanes it will take to replace just what we have right now in energy. I know that answer and it involves all of Gamesa's current wind plants going up every day for the next 50 years.

    I am tickled I am only 'objective' if I am a shill for a lobbying group. Trust me, there is a lot more money in your business than there is in being objective about science and technology.
    Hank
    The Wall Street Journal discovers unions spent four times as much on politics in the past 6 years as previously believed - $4.4 billion.  And it's dues-funded coffers, not members making voluntary contributions.

    Yeah, let's believe wind is just smarter energy and better for the people than coal because unions and paid lobbyists have more PR money than scientists.
    Hank
    US Presidential contender Mitt Romney is earning no friends in Iowa doing the exact thing Republicans say politicians should do - cut government waste. For Democratic pet projects, anyway.

    "He will allow the wind credit to expire, end the stimulus boondoggles, and create a level playing field on which all sources of energy can compete on their merits," Romney spokesman Shawn McCoy told the Register. "Wind energy will thrive wherever it is economically competitive, and wherever private sector competitors with far more experience than the president believe the investment will produce results."