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Editorial: Wind generates jobs, not just electricity

There are lots of reasons to support a tax policy that encourages wind-power development. The environment is only one. And these days, not even the most persuasive one. In Grand Forks, the most persuasive reason sits in the industrial park just w...

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There are lots of reasons to support a tax policy that encourages wind-power development.

The environment is only one. And these days, not even the most persuasive one.

In Grand Forks, the most persuasive reason sits in the industrial park just west of Interstate 29. That's where LM Wind Power makes wind turbine blades, and employs somewhere close to 1,000 people in the process.

As LM officials would agree, the Grand Forks plant is operating because the federal tax code has encouraged wind development. The turbines at wind farms need blades, and that's where LM Wind Power comes in.

But as LM officials-and Grand Forks officials, and North Dakota's congressional delegation, among many others-also would agree, the tax credit is just the start. It's a modest fiscal tool that has leveraged literally billions of dollars in private investment, creating a vibrant industry that employs thousands across rural America and generates a significant share of the nation's electric power.

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Does this growth come with trade-offs? You bet it does. The tax credits distort the market. The turbines kill too many bats and birds. Some people don't like the look of the turbines. And on and on.

But here's the thing. The question isn't whether the policies create trade-offs.

The question is whether the trade-offs are worth it.

That's the question we ask about all government programs, after all. These would include not only, say, retirement-savings and downtown-development tax breaks, but also North Dakota's own efforts to incent horizontal drilling for oil-efforts that helped ignite the Bakken oil boom.

Those latter efforts paid off big time, North Dakotans would agree.

In the Red River Valley and a great many other places, the wind-power tax credits have paid off, too.

This issue is relevant because last week in the Legislature, majority leaders wrote to Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., asking him to call for immediately repealing the wind power tax credit.

Hoeven demurred, noting that the credit already is on a "glide path" to zero in 2020. He also said he'll meet with the leadership.

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When he does, he'll no doubt remind them that he has supported the wind-power tax credit, for all the reasons listed above.

And Hoeven's not alone, even among Republicans. Another supporter is Rick Perry, now America's secretary of energy. Thanks in part to former Gov. Perry, "Texas produces about four times more wind power than third place California and three times more than second place Iowa," Forbes magazine reports.

In fact, "Texas now produces more wind power alone than 25 U.S. states produce from all power sources combined." Why? Not because Perry's an environmentalist, but because he was "a chief executive with an eye on growing the economy and keeping business happy," as The Guardian newspaper reports.

That's reason enough, and it's why Perry supported wind energy and the jobs and electricity it creates.

-- Tom Dennis for the Herald

Related Topics: LM WIND POWER
Opinion by Thomas Dennis
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