McCain’s Wind Energy Double-Talk Express

McCain has flopped from opposing  wind energy to supporting wind energy. Has McCain really flipped or has he only embraced a pseudo flop to publicly pander for renewable energy votes while he more quietly takes actions to block wind energy progress?

McCain can be very clear and specific when talking about nuclear energy, or coal, or off-shore oil drilling, yet he can not even muster up one “yes” vote out of 8 chances on renewable energy tax credits legislation.  

His actions are consistent with blocking wind energy, which is a competitor for oil industry subsidies and may transform oil barons into barren businesses no longer needed.  

McCain likes to take on the lead political starlet role of Mr. Maverick presidential candidate with bravado performances how he is the one to resolve our energy crisis. McCain cites his  “long record of support” for “alternate energy” and how he has not missed “any crucial vote.” Then, he bellows that Congress is responsible for delaying renewable energy policy:  “Tell them to come back and get to work!”

Five days before McCain beckoned Congress to take action on our energy crisis, McCain for the 8th time in one year missed a crucial vote on S. 3335, which will extend production tax credits for constructing wind turbines.  In fact, twice McCain’s single vote was absent when the extension failed by one vote.  These missed votes “effectively count[ed] as a no vote each time.”  Moreover, one time he was in the Senate but would not leave his office to vote.

McCain’s opposition to the wind production credit is not new. “In 2004, he introduced legislation that would have eliminated the renewable energy production tax credit.”  Even last year McCain stated his opposition to subsidies for wind energy:

I’m not one who believes that we need to subsidize things. The wind industry is doing fine, the solar industry is doing fine.

However, McCain apparently does not have a problem with direct and indirect subsidies for oil.   Subsidies become an issue for McCain when wind tax credits would “shift[] money from subsidies to the oil industry, which hardly needs it given record oil prices and record oil profits.”

The oil industry maintains that it is not yet cost effective to use wind energy.  However, the whole point of the tax credits is to stimulate investments to make the wind industry competitive with oil, and it is precisely that competition that the oil industry is trying to block.  The wind industry is dependent upon the credits to “scale their businesses and become competitive with coal, oil and natural gas.”  

Moreover, our Energy Dept. has concluded that wind energy can produce energy “comparable in price to that generated at today’s power plants” and can potentially render the oil industry as extinct as the dinosaurs:

The winds blowing 15 miles or even farther off the U.S. coast potentially could produce 900,000 megawatts of electricity, or roughly the same amount as all the nation’s existing coal, nuclear and gas-fired plants, dams, co-generation, terrestrial windmills and solar projects combined, according to U.S. Department of Energy estimates.

The wind industry needs the tax credits to move forward from its current holding pattern created by this stalled legislation. The uncertainty over tax credits is holding back the installed wind power industry which grew a staggering 45 percent in 2007 while GE faces a wind turbine shortage and $12 billion backlog of booked orders. Investors are ready to plunk down billions for renewable energy, but delay in passing the credits has already resulted in thousands of jobs lost.

This legislation is particularly crucial because offshore wind farms could provide relief faster than offshore oil drilling:

In less time than it would take to fire up new offshore oil drills, waters off our coast could host floating wind turbines and undulating buoys driven by waves, producing abundant electricity for a power-thirsty state.

McCain not only prevented the passage of key energy legislation, but then promoted the meme that he supports wind energy by featuring wind turbines in his campaign ads:  

The upshot is that refusing to vote on legislation needed to address our energy crisis not only harms our national security interest by extending the duration of US dependency on foreign countries. But, it also risks marginalizing the US in terms of which countries will be the leaders in the alternative energies that replace oil dependency. Thanks to President Carter’s government investments, the US was the leader in the wind technology market. After 26 years of conservatives, like McCain, repeatedly blocking wind budgets and tax credits, the US is now a “bit player in the $36 billion global market.”



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  1. Wind energy can be operational FASTER than off-shore oil drilling! if only the public knew…

  2. …it’s a pinwheel 😉

  3. It’s so important that the facts are known, particularly, on these very issues.

    I was involved in a virtual townhall meeting via teleconferencing with Cong. Wexler about a month ago.  He spoke strongly on the issue of drilling offshore and in the Arctic!  He said that these efforts by the oil companies were nothing more than a last ditch effort in land grabs.  First, there would be no oil realized from these efforts until 2017.  But, most important, these companies own much land already upon which to exploit.  

    It all seems contrived, in some way, to me — that is, the price of gas being so high and the screaming for drilling offshore, etc. as a necessary alternative.

    Thanks again!

  4. hey PD – I noticed some click-throughs coming from OpenCongress. Your essay got picked up in their blog feed re bill S.3335.  At least for the moment you are listed in the section under Blog Coverage.  That’s very cool – you are the ace today!  

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