The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Opinion

December 21, 2013

Congress should extend wind energy tax credit

In May, Gov. Terry Branstad and officials of MidAmerican Energy Co. announced plans for the largest economic development investment in Iowa history: A $1.9 billion wind energy project involving the addition of 656 new wind turbines.

According to leaders, the project will generate as much as 1,050 megawatts of power in the state by 2015, create 48 permanent jobs and 460 construction jobs over two years, provide $360 million in additional property tax revenue over the next 30 years, produce $3.2 million in annual payments to landowners and reduce future electricity rates for MidAmerican customers by up to $10 million per year by 2017.

For this boost to the state’s economy and energy picture by MidAmerican, Iowans can thank, in large measure, the federal wind energy production tax credit.

So valuable to growth of wind energy in Iowa and elsewhere, this tax credit (2.2 cents for every kilowatt-hour of electricity generated) is set to expire at the end of the month. Again this year, we support renewal of the credit and urge Iowa’s congressional delegation to do the same.

Failure to renew, we fear, would have a devastating impact on a promising industry.

Here in Iowa, the stakes are high. The wind energy industry in our state currently employs 6,000 to 7,000 people. This ranks Iowa third in the nation in employment related to wind energy. Iowa, among the nation’s wind energy leaders, in 2012 produced a national record of almost 25 percent of all electricity generated in the state from wind turbines, according to the Wind Energy Association.

In the larger picture, wind energy is good for the nation. For the long-term economic, strategic and security interests of America, we support a diverse portfolio of energy options, including biofuels like biodiesel and ethanol, and wind. In the name of achieving energy independence for the country, we in principle are comfortable with the idea of federal support for energy — all of energy. Let’s not forget: The oil, natural gas and coal industries get federal tax breaks, too.

As we said last year in urging extension, at a time when jobs, energy independence and producing clean, renewable fuels are near the top of this nation’s list of priorities, renewal of the wind energy production tax credit would be money well spent.

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With the Clinton County Justice Coordinating Commission and the Clinton County Board of Supervisors discussing proposals to construct a new jail, do you think the time has come for Clinton County to construct such a facility?

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