Mike Dennison — Independent Record — December 24, 2012
As Congress struggles to avert the year-end “fiscal cliff” of tax-and-budget policy, there’s one expiring tax law that isn’t getting much press: the federal tax credit that subsidizes wind-power production.
Wind-power advocates and leading politicians in the West say this credit, which expires in a week, should be extended to preserve thousands of jobs and a growing, clean-energy industry.
But others say it’s time to let this subsidy die, for it’s skewing electricity markets, hurting other power producers and not delivering on its promise of jobs.
“They go build a wind farm, they’re there for three-to-six months,” says
Bob Winger, a union boilermaker from Billings and vocal critic of wind-power subsidies. “Coal mines and coal-fired power plants are jobs day-in, day-out. … Who are all of these people (in wind) that they say are employed?”
According to figures compiled by the state and the wind-power industry, wind projects in Montana have created about 1,300 construction jobs the past seven years — but only 86 permanent jobs.
Montana coal mines, whose product is burned to produce power, employ about 1,100 people, and coal-fired power plants here employ at least another 400.