Wind Energy Subsidies Help the Rich, Hurt the Poor

Opinion by 60 Plus President Amy Frederick, Published in the Chillicothe Gazette (Ohio), November 29, 2014

Though President Obama’s name appears nowhere on the ballot for this Fall’s momentous midterm elections, he hasn’t been able to resist injecting himself into the campaign by saying, “Make no mistake, [my policies] are on the ballot this November.”

While this gave Democrat candidates across the country heartburn, they can take comfort that there is one policy he champions which is not going to be on the ballot this November, mostly because it is an issue being hidden from the American people until after the election. At that point Congress will be a lame duck, but it won’t prevent them from re-enacting a huge giveaway to wind energy lobbyists under the Production Tax Credit (PTC).

Wind energy has already received $18 billion in subsidies from Washington, and if lobbyists are successful in having the PTC re-enacted, billions more of our tax dollars will find their way into the pockets of Washington’s political cronies, leaving the rest of us to pay the tab.

Taxpayer subsidies for wind energy, frankly, make little sense to support. After 20 years of subsidies and promotion from Washington, wind energy is still extremely expensive, and unfeasible for the vast majority of Americans. Meanwhile, it plays a significant role in increasing electric bills for residents of states with wind as part of their energy mix, as consumers are essentially forced to purchase it once Washington funds it. For states forced to use wind energy, electric bills have increased four times higher than those without.

But it does provide a nice source of income for lobbyists and wealthy investors. As billionaire Warren Buffet said, We get a tax credit if we build a lot of wind farms. That’s the only reason to build them. They don’t make sense without the tax credit.”

That’s the story of wind energy in a nutshell: average working Americans are having billions of their tax dollars siphoned by Washington for the privilege of seeing their electric bills skyrocket, all so people with private jets can get a tax break from Uncle Sam.  No wonder this is an issue being hidden until after November.

Like nearly all of his energy policies, Obama’s support for wind subsidies is costly, misguided, ineffective, and targets seniors on fixed incomes as well as the working poor.  EPA regulations on energy emissions are already shutting down coal plants, causing a steep rise in utility bills for those who use it as well as natural gas. Washington’s strange affair with wind energy has only contributed to the pain of rising electric bills, and seniors especially are feeling the squeeze.

60 Plus recently completed a survey in Ohio of more than 650 voting seniors, where an average of 73% said they were on fixed incomes, and 76% said they were anywhere from “somewhat” to “extremely” concerned about Administration policies that are pushing energy costs skyward.

With so many hurt by our economy and needing relief, subsidies for wind energy represent government at its very worst — lining the pockets of the well-connected while leaving Americans struggling to get by to pick up the tab.

Imagine, if you will, you are one of America’s 50 million senior citizens living on a fixed income.  You’ve worked your entire life, taking care of your family, preparing for retirement, dutifully paying into the Social Security system on the promise that you will live comfortably in your golden years. That check is your primary source of income, to pay for food, housing, medicine, and as you know, it does not keep pace with inflation.

Now your President decides to help wealthy political insiders with billions in handouts, which make your energy bill skyrocket. You can barely make ends meet as it stands, and your energy bill is more than 70% of your monthly residential expenses. Chances are, to keep the lights on and the heat going in a dark, cold winter, you may have to go without food, medicine, or some other necessity. This is a disgraceful way to treat our parents and grandparents, who sacrificed so much for us.

It’s time Washington considers the impact their policies have on seniors, working families, and our most vulnerable. It is time to once and for all put an end to wasteful, damaging energy subsidies that do nothing but help the well-connected, while harming those living one paycheck, or one Social Security check, from economic disaster. 

Amy Frederick is President of the 60 Plus Association.