Phil Gramm | The Multiple Distortions of Wind Subsidies

Federal subsidies for new wind-power generation will end on Dec. 31 unless they are renewed by Congress. For the sake of our economy and the smooth operation of the energy market, Congress should let the subsidies lapse. They waste taxpayer money, subvert the allocation of capital, and generate a social cost many times the price tag of the subsides themselves.

Since 1992, the federal government has expended almost $24 billion to encourage investment in wind power through direct spending, tax breaks, R&D, loan guarantees and other federal support of electric power. The Joint Committee on Taxation estimates that a one-year extension of existing federal subsidies for wind power would cost taxpayers almost $12 billion.

The costs of wind subsidies are extraordinarily high—$52.48 per one million watt hours generated, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. By contrast, the subsidies for generating the same amount of electricity from nuclear power are $3.10, from hydropower 84 cents, from coal 64 cents, and from natural gas 63 cents.

In addition, wind power benefits from federal mandates requiring the use of renewable energy by federal agencies along with preferential treatment by the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service. Many states provide additional tax breaks, subsidies and mandates for wind power. The total value of these additional subsidies has never been calculated.


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