But the wind lobby’s success has largely been the result of its ability to garner subsidies. And those subsidies are coming with a big price tag for American taxpayers. Since 2009, AWEA’s largest and most influential member companies have garnered billions of dollars in direct cash payments and loan guarantees from the US government. And while the lobby group claims to be promoting “clean” energy, AWEA’s biggest member companies are also among the world’s biggest users and/or producers of fossil fuels.
A review of the $9.8 billion in cash grants provided under section 1603 of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (also known as the federal stimulus bill) for renewable energy projects shows that the wind energy sector has corralled over $7.6 billion of that money. And the biggest winners in the 1603 sweepstakes: the companies represented on AWEA’s board of directors.
An analysis of the 4,256 projects that have won grants from the Treasury Department under section 1603 over the past two years shows that $3.37 billion in grants went to just nine companies -- all of them are members of AWEA’s board. To put that $3.37 billion in perspective, consider that in 2010, according to the Energy Information Administration, the total of all “energy specific subsidies and support” provided to the oil and gas sector totaled $2.84 billion. And that $2.84 billion in oil and gas subsidies is being divided among thousands of entities. The Independent Petroleum Association of America estimates the US now has over 14,000 oil and gas companies.
The renewable energy lobby likes to portray itself as an upstart industry, one that is grappling with big business and the entrenched interests of the hydrocarbon sector. But billions of dollars in 1603 grants – all of it exempt from federal corporate income taxes – is being used to fatten the profits of some of the world’s biggest companies. Indeed, the combined market capitalization of the 11 biggest corporations on AWEA’s board – a group that includes General Electric and Siemens -- is about $450 billion.
Nevertheless, the clock is ticking on renewable-energy subsidies. The 1603 grants end on December 31 and the renewable-energy production tax credit expires on January 1, 2013. On Monday, AWEA issued a report which predicted that some 37,000 wind-related jobs in the US could be lost by 2013 if the production tax credit is not extended.