Why the Wind Power Tax Credit Needs to be Renewed
by Rev. Mitch Hescox and Rev. Gabriel Salguero
America doesn’t retreat from history. We make it – by investing in homegrown innovation that makes us a global leader and that fulfills our responsibilities to be good stewards of the earth. That’s why Congress, with overwhelming bi-partisan support, created the Wind Power Tax Credit (formally known as the Renewable Energy Production Tax Credit). This tax credit, which encourages the development of domestic wind power, is set to expire at the end of the year. Twenty eight governors, both Republican and Democrat, support the tax credit. Congress needs to renew it now for three reasons.
First, the credit works – it’s a simple, uncomplicated piece of good policy. In the two decades since it was established, US production of wind energy has increased exponentially and the industry has created over 50,000 jobs. Wind now supplies more than 3 percent of U.S. electricity demand and accounts for 35 percent of new electric generation capacity in the last four years. In challenging economic times, we need to build momentum behind success like this – not pull the plug. 37,000 jobs will be at risk if the tax credit is allowed to expire. Just as we’re beginning to recover from a major recession, that would be both foolish and callous.
Second, the credit helps make families and our country more secure. Wind energy doesn’t just create jobs and support prosperous communities in the American heartland. It also helps make America energy-independent and breaks our dependence on foreign oil. And, it ensures that we don’t keep falling behind China and other countries in the development of alternative energy technology. It’s hard to overstate the importance of this kind of investment. Countries around the world, in Europe, Asia, Latin America and beyond, are investing in tomorrow’s energy systems because they realize that to stay competitive, they need to commit to clean, affordable energy. Our future prosperity depends on our making these investments too. The Wind Power Tax Credit helps get the job done.
Third, in addition to building prosperity and making us more secure, the credit is also, morally, the right thing to do. Air pollution and emissions from coal plants are a public health nightmare. Wind energy is clean and does not give off toxic emissions such as mercury, which causes brain damage in the unborn and young children, chemicals that cause thousands of heart attacks and over 20,000 premature US deaths annually, or soot that creates hundreds of thousands of cases of bronchitis and asthma attacks. That’s why earlier this year, over fifty thousand pro-life Christians petitioned the EPA in support of clean energy. These health impacts aren’t just a human tragedy – they are financially costly as well. Estimates of these health costs alone run conservatively in the billions of dollars. And, by the way, these emissions contribute to a hotter planet, which results in more storms like Sandy, whose cost is estimated at close to $100 billion. If we believe we’re meant to be stewards of God’s creation, we need to be investing in a clean energy economy.
For these reasons, the Good Steward Campaign and Evangelical Environmental Network are mobilizing Christians across the country around this issue. Thousands of Christians have signed a petition in favor of the tax credit as part of an ongoing email campaign to 9 million evangelicals and Catholics. In multiple states, events are being hosted at colleges and churches engaging young evangelicals and faith communities on wind energy and creating a prosperous, secure, healthy future for future generations.
Now more than ever we need to be thinking about how to move our country toward energy technology that will strengthen our economy and increase domestic production of clean energy. For all these reasons, extending the Wind Tax Credit is good for America. However, there is serious danger of it getting caught up in the current budget and deficit reduction negotiations. That would be a shame.
This tax credit is too important to be used as a political bargaining chip. Tens of thousands of jobs are at stake, as is American security, and our ability to become energy independent in a way that does not continue to have devastating impacts on the health and well-being of innocent people. The Wind Tax Credit needs to be renewed without further delay. We urge Congress to do this, now.