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Countering Wind Energy Skepticism

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AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images

The Wall Street Journal's tepid stance on renewable wind energy is receiving some push back from people who actually experience the benefits of this abundant and promising resource. On Monday, Iowa Governor Terry E. Branstad had a letter published in the Wall Street Journal contesting two recent Journal editorials lambasting the wind-energy Production Tax Credit and renewable portfolio standard.

Gov. Branstad wrote, "Our state is receiving 20% of its electricity from wind farms at stable and dependable rates, and there are over 215 wind-related businesses operating in 55 counties across Iowa, providing jobs for more than 5,000 workers."

The conservative Journal had written that states like Minnesota have seen increased electricity rates due to their renewable energy standards. Yet there are questions about the studies that see increases in electricity rates. One group of researchers skeptical of the recent alarmism found that many states saw the rise in electricity rates before the implementation of renewable energy standards slow down, if not reverse. While Gov. Branstad, a Republican, did not directly question the Journal's assertions on electricity rates, his dissent was certainly impactful. Disseminating well-supported opposing information that counters the stand-pat positions of outposts reluctant to embrace clean energy is vital to secure a future with a livable environment and progressive energy policy. Doing so within the pages of the staid Wall Street Journal is doubly impressive.

The Production Tax Credit exists to reduce costs for wind-generated electricity by reducing companies' tax bills by 2.2 cents per kWh. The PTC is good for the first 10 years of a wind company's life. As Greg Pfahl, an audit partner at the Denver office of Hein & Associates LLP, explains, "It's a credit off of the tax due at the end of the year. There is no grant or anything such as that like the Investment Tax Credit." Yet its own life is in jeopardy due to partisan gridlock. Its extension is being debated in Congress, and if it ends in January as scheduled, it could result in the loss of up to 37,000 jobs. Renewable portfolio standards, on the other hand, are government-issued orders that utilities draw a certain percentage of their energy from renewable sources and have been popular from California to Germany.

This isn't the first Wall Street Journal editorial to dismiss wind energy potential. In the past, the paper has questioned whether tools like the Production Tax Credit were cost effective, yet their lack of expertise in the area jumped out. The paper claimed the tax credit was 2.2% for every kilowatt, as opposed to 2.2 cents.

Of course, we can't all be experts in wind energy, and even popular proponents of renewable energy can drop the ball when presented with seemingly compelling arguments against wind energy, as notable progressive Roger Ebert seemed to do in his review of the movie Windfall. (Here is a wind expert's take on the movie.)

This makes it important for those armed with the facts and the experience of working with wind energy, such as Gov. Branstad, to speak up. And it only improves the quality of the information Wall Street Journal readers and other skeptics receive when informed green energy proponents do so.

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