Protect Wind Energy Sector


Political uncertainty has sidelined what promised to be a good source of jobs for Arkansans: the wind energy sector.

As Arkansas Business' Luke Jones writes in this issue, the specter of the expiration of the federal production tax credit at the end of this year has led to more than 200 layoffs at one company in Little Rock, LM Wind Power, and the decision by another, Mitsubishi, to cancel a $100 million turbine plant in Fort Smith, an investment that would have created 300 jobs.

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A certain amount of irony underlies the debate over whether to extend the wind energy tax credit: It appears to be one of the very few issues on which many Democrats and Republicans can agree. Although GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney has said he'd let the credit expire, Arkansas congressional Republicans John Boozman and Tim Griffin favor its immediate preservation and a gradual phase-out. And Democrat Mark Pryor supports the credit's extension. Even Karl Rove backs the credit.

The United States has an interest in developing domestic energy sources for two good reasons: to make this country as energy independent as possible and to ensure economic productivity. That interest has expressed itself in the past in government tax preferences shown to the fossil fuel industry.

In the past few years the private sector has found wind energy, a renewable energy source, an appealing investment, made more appealing by the federal tax credit. Arkansas has benefited greatly from firms deciding to locate their wind turbine component factories here.

The government has a record of encouraging emerging energy technologies. The wind energy industry is no less deserving than the oil and gas energy industry. The production tax credit should be extended.