Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, hardly a traditional advocate of federal assistance, is right to join Democratic and Republican governors in 27 other states to urge renewal of a vital federal subsidy for the development of wind energy.
Trouble is, the Governors’ Wind Energy Coalition isn’t just up against Republican opposition of support for alternative energy — opposition that includes at least one member of the Kansas congressional delegation. As the Associated Press has reported, elimination of the subsidy was included in the national Republican Party platform last summer.
The governors’ greater concern is that the subsidy — a $12 billion tax break to leverage private investments to build wind farms — might be sacrificed in budget negotiations between the president and congressional Republicans. The credit expires Jan. 1, and its fate will be decided by the lame-duck Congress.
If we had to choose, we’d take a constructive solution that backs us all away from the “fiscal cliff” and launches us toward balanced budgets and repayment of the national debt. But comparatively small items like the wind energy subsidy aren’t what have thwarted previous efforts. The culprit has been extreme partisanship on both sides of the aisle.
That partisanship spurred U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo, a Wichita Republican, to become one of the organizers of opposition to the wind tax credits. In a statement more snarky than pertinent, Rep. Pompeo said: “There was a discussion in a lot of races around the country, and I didn’t see a single race in which consumers were demanding higher electricity bills.”
That’s not the choice and he knows it.
We have taken Gov. Brownback to task on a number of occasions, but his desire to expand wind energy in Kansas is good both for the economy and the environment. He noted that installation of wind turbines in this state nearly doubled this year, generating 2,600 megawatts of electricity. He also noted that the deadline led to the private investment of close to $3 billion in wind energy in Kansas. Without the subsidy, he said, that would cease. Other governors make similar arguments.
As Gov. Brownback said during a teleconference this week, “I strongly support extension of this production tax credit so we can continue to build wind energy and the jobs and electricity that is associated with it.”
Our nation needs more jobs, it needs more electricity and it needs alternatives to fossil fuels. The subsidy deserves to be renewed. Budget negotiators wouldn’t need to look far to find all manner of less worthwhile federal expenditures than this enlightened investment in wind energy.