Senators and advocates: Wind energy could slow global warming, but tax credits needed

Environment America

WASHINGTON, DC – Expanding wind power across the country could cut as much global warming pollution as 254 coal plants produce in a year, according to a new report, but Congressional action is needed to make that expansion a reality, clean energy advocates said today.

“Speeding the development of pollution-free wind energy will slow global warming,” said Anna Aurilio, global warming solutions program director for Environment America. “But Congress needs to invest now in healthy air and a healthy planet.”

The Environment America Research & Policy Center analysis, More Wind, Less Warming, comes as Congress debates renewing tax incentives that have spurred the nation’s growth in wind power, which in 2013 supplied enough energy to power more than 15 million homes.

“New Mexico is at the eye of the storm when it comes to the impacts of climate change. But while global warming is a threat we must fight, it’s also a tremendous opportunity to invest in clean energy jobs of the future, “ said U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-NM). “Wind has huge potential — not only is it carbon free, it’s abundant in New Mexico, and it uses almost no water. Now is the time for Congress to make a commitment to fight climate change and help create jobs of the future by extending the wind production tax credit — not just for one year but long enough for this important industry to meet its full potential.”

If wind power kept its recent pace of development, it could supply 30 percent of the nation’s electricity needs by 2030, providing more than enough carbon reductions to meet the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed Clean Power Plan, and a third of the reductions the U.S. committed to achieving in its agreement with China.

“When we support clean energy development, we’re promoting job creation that will help all of creation. That’s because good clean energy policy is good climate policy, and helps us be the leader in developing the technologies that power our economy and protect our environment,” said U.S. Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA). “America’s wind energy industry is the future of our economy, and we need to invest in the fuels of the future, not the industries of the past.”

America has the potential to power itself 10 times over with wind that blows both over land and off the coast.  Offshore wind development, which is in its nascent stages in the U.S., is critical to fulfilling the nation’s full promise of wind energy, the report said.

Yesterday the U.S. House overwhelmingly adopted a plan to renew vital wind energy tax credits retroactively through the end of 2014, which advocates said was virtually meaningless. To ramp up wind power development and avoid massive job loss, the incentives for wind power projects should be renewed at least through 2015, they said.

“Congress needs to provide stability so that American workers can make more of our own energy here at home, and reduce carbon pollution as rapidly and cheaply as possible,” said Tom Kiernan, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association. “We need to get out of short-term thinking, including three-week extensions of the policy that is critical to building more wind energy, the Production Tax Credit. That’s why we are urging the Senate today to stand up for renewable energy, vote for the EXPIRE Act, and extend the PTC at least through 2015, before considering a phase-out that would provide a glide path for the industry to keep scaling up.”

“Wind power can replace the dirty energy sources of the past and the pollution that comes with them,” Aurilio with Environment America concluded. “But Congress needs to act now to ensure a clean energy future.”