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Inaction by Congress has wind energy in state of limbo

Sep 28, 2012 - By The Kansas City Star

Suddenly, much of the wind has gone out of the sails of a once-growing industry in this country.

Wind energy companies are laying off a lot of employees, cutting production and making dire predictions about their future. The biggest concern: Congress has not extended a crucial tax credit that makes it financially feasible for the industry to compete with other subsidized energy sources.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, along with U.S. Sens. Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran, are battling to keep the credit. Good for these three Republicans. Even though the situation looks bleak now -- a large number of GOP House members have vowed to stop any extension -- it still could be approved after the Nov. 6 election.

That would be a good move for the nation, which needs to increase its sources of clean and renewable energy from domestic sources.

Critics will continue to complain that wind-produced electricity is more expensive than coal-generated power. However, as we have noted often, the true costs of fossil fuels must include the expenses of dealing with the very real environmental issues they bring.

Opposing lawmakers also claim they don't want to pick "winners and losers" by backing the tax credit extension. The U.S. tax code does that every day, with some of its rules slanted in favor of Big Oil and other energy industries. Solar gets a lot of public assistance, for example.

As it is now, the nation stands to lose thousands of wind-related jobs in the next year, undermining progress on wind energy construction projects across the country.

The failure to extend the tax credit also could hurt efforts by utilities to bolster the diversity of their power sources, a troubling move backward.

The wind energy industry, through more research and engineering, does need to improve the efficiency of its turbines to bring down its costs to consumers.

But the likelihood of technological changes being made in the long-term will grow dimmer unless Congress extends the tax credit by late 2012.

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