Fact check: Heritage, AEI off base on wind incentives, growth

Kevin Haley assisted in the writing of this article.


It's a two-fer: both the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and Heritage Foundation blogs carried attacks on wind Tuesday, using cherry-picked statistics to mislead their audiences.

Heritage Foundation and energy incentives

Heritage may not support American renewable energy, but you’d expect them to at least get their facts straight.

Regarding federal investment in energy production, the fact is, oil and gas companies have received more than 75 times the total cumulative dollar amount of federal subsidies that renewables ($446.96 billion vs. $5.93 billion through 2009, according to a recent study from the venture capital firm DBL Investors) have.

If Heritage wants to compare one year’s worth of federal support (when energy sources such as oil and gas have been subsidized for nearly a century), that’s fine. Just don’t think that they’re giving you the whole picture.

The wind energy Production Tax Credit (PTC) is about leveling the playing field and ensuring that the next generation of Americans will be able to enjoy clean, abundant, homegrown energy. It’s a business tax credit – funding is based solely on project performance, not evaluation by government officials. It also has strong bipartisan support – 18 House Republicans along with numerous Republican Senators, Governors and state legislators support a PTC extension.  Complete list of PTC endorsements

The PTC will allow the wind industry to grow from the current 75,000 jobs to over 100,000 jobs in four years and continue toward supporting 500,000 jobs by 2030. Without the PTC, the industry stands to lose 35,000 American jobs.

If you support American jobs, support the PTC.

AEI and wind power's growth and potential

At AEI, Kenneth P. Green quotes with approval a wind-bashing article from the U.K.'s traditionally anti-wind Daily Telegraph newspaper.

The numbers on wind power's growth and potential, both in the U.S. and worldwide, are readily available for all to see.

Specifically, in the U.S., wind has accounted for 35 percent of all the new electric generating capacity for the past five years (for 2011, the number was 31 percent).  After a decade of double-digit growth, wind power generated nearly 3 percent (2.9) of U.S. electricity in 2011, equivalent to 60 million tons of coal or 200 million barrels of oil–or enough to more than meet the total electricity needs of the state of Michigan.  By any rational measure, U.S. wind power has become a serious energy source, and our investment in this clean, affordable, homegrown energy technology is paying off.

Worldwide, according to the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC), 41,000 megawatts (MW) of new wind capacity were installed in 2011, an increase of bringing total installed capacity to 238,000 MW, up 21 percent from a year earlier and almost exactly 10 times the cumulative world wind capacity of 23,900 at the end of 2001.  If all those machines were installed in the U.S., which has better wind speeds than most countries, they could power the equivalent of more than 60 million U.S. homes.

Wind continues to grow for obvious reasons.  It's inexhaustible.  It uses zero fuel, so it insulates utilities and consumers from volatile swings in world fuel prices.  And it has no emissions, helping to reduce air pollution and the emission of greenhouse gases.  There will be a place for it in our energy portfolio for many years to come, and anyone who believes otherwise is kidding themselves.

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