SEPTEMBER 17, 2012 4:00 A.M.
The Cost of Wind-Energy Jobs
The “our industry creates jobs” argument is the last refuge of a subsidy seeker.
Or consider the most egregious case of wind-energy corporate welfare: the Shepherds Flat wind project in Oregon, which is getting a $490 million cash grant from the federal government. The project, backed by General Electric, Google, and other companies, willcreate just 35 permanent jobs. Cost of each one of those long-term jobs: about $14 million. Even if we include the 400 temporary construction jobs the project created and count them as permanent jobs, taxpayers are still spending about $1.1 million per wind-related job.
Recall that during the first few months of the Obama administration, wind proponents claimed that their turbines were an essential method of cutting carbon dioxide emissions. But as the economy continues to limp along and a flood of low-cost natural gas is making wind energy less and less economically viable, Big Wind has defaulted to the claim that 37,000 jobs might be lost.
It’s instructive to compare the parallel tactics of Big Corn and Big Wind. About a year ago, as Congress was debating an extension of the tax credit for corn-ethanol production, the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) abandoned its absurd claims about “energy independence” and instead began running ads touting the “70,000 quality jobs” that rely on ethanol production. The ethanol industry, according to the RFA’s CEO Bob Dinneen, was a “job-creating engine fueled by innovation.” Implicit in Dinneen’s message: We need subsidies for just a little while longer.
That’s awfully similar to a statement made by AWEA’s top executive, Denise Bode, that the PTC is an “effective, job-creating tax policy.” Letting it expire, she claims, will put “good American jobs” in peril.
And that brings us to another parallel: Until last year, Big Corn had both a mandate and a subsidy. Congress finally killed the ethanol tax credit, which cost taxpayers $6.1 billion in 2011, but the corn-ethanol scammers still have a federal mandate that requires motorists to use their hydrophilic, corrosive fuel adulterant.
Big Wind has a mandate: Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia are subject to mandates for renewable electricity production, which is affecting the cost of electricity for their 220 million residents. And just as Big Corn did last year, Big Wind is campaigning hard because it wants to keep both the mandate and the subsidy.
The “our industry creates a lot of jobs” argument is the last refuge of a subsidy seeker. Congress took away Big Corn’s subsidy last year. It should do the same for Big Wind.
— Robert Bryce is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. His latest book isPower Hungry: The Myths of “Green” Energy and the Real Fuels of the....
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