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Environment Maine: Extend Federal Wind Energy Tax Credits
11/28/2012   Reported By: Samantha Fields

Power being generated by wind energy in Maine is reducing carbon pollution by more than 400,000 metric tons, according to a local environmental group. That's the equivalent of the carbon generated by 79,000 cars. Environment Maine says the data help build the case for extending federal tax credits for wind energy, which are set to expire at the end of this year. Samantha Fields has more.

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Environment Maine: Extend Federal Wind Energy Tax Listen

How wind power works

The so-called production tax credit has been the lifeblood of the wind industry since 1992. It subsidizes wind power, making it better able to compete with other sources of electricity. And it has been a huge incentive for the industry.

Nora Graubard of Environment Maine says that without it, development of new wind projects would cease. "If we lose the production tax credit for wind, the Department of Energy predicts that there will be zero new wind projects planned," she says.

As it stands now, the wind energy production tax credit is set to expire on Dec. 31. Environment Maine says that would be a huge loss for Maine, both for the environment and the economy. Paul Williamson is the director of the Maine Wind Industry Initiative. He says the industry is not looking for the tax credits to continue forever.

"It's really important for industry to have a sense of certainty going forward so they can draw up their business plans," he says. "And what would very healthy for this industry at this point would be to set a long term phase out of the tax credits so that they can adjust their business strategy accordingly. But having a cliff where it simply drops off hurts business and it hurts investment."

Williamson says it could also mean the loss of between 600 and 800 jobs in Maine which are connected to the industry.

Brad Blake is a representative of the Citizens' Task Force on Wind Power, a group that opposes most wind power development. He calls wind power intermittent and unreliable, and says that the federal government should not be subsidizing it with taxpayer money.

"It doesn't work, it's non cost competitive, and it's time that we ended the tax credit once and for all," he says, "particularly in the context of the fact that we have not balanced a federal budget in the last four years."

Advocates of wind acknowledge that with the country facing the so-called "fiscal cliff," the future of the production tax credit is uncertain. In a letter sent to Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, environmental and business groups argue that the benefits to the environment, the climate, and the economy are worth the expense.

The letter also notes that, over the years, the oil and gas industries have received more than 75 times more financial support from the federal government than renewables.

Photos by Samantha Fields.


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