Corporate executives often tout the benefits of competition in a free-market economic system, but it’s striking just how much large corporations don’t like it. In fact, some companies will do all they can to squash it, lobbying for favors and subsidies while working to deny them to their competitors.
The squabble over a key federal tax break for the wind industry is a case in point. Called the production tax credit (PTC), it has helped quadruple the wind industry’s generation capacity over the last five years, and six states now have enough wind turbines to meet more than 15 percent of their annual demand.
Unlike most coal, nuclear, and oil and gas subsidies, the PTC — which has been around only since the mid-1990s — is not permanent. Congress has to renew it periodically. Last December, Congress let it expire yet again, and lawmakers likely will not restore it until after the November mid-term elections, if at all. The PTC represents roughly $1.2 billion in annual tax savings to the wind industry.
Wind’s more-established competitors want the PTC dead.
ExxonMobil, the Koch brothers and their front groups, for example, want Congress to let it die. Never mind that the oil and gas industry has been receiving an average of $4.86 billion annually in today’s dollars in subsidies and tax breaks since 1918. Or the fact that Congress exempted natural gas developers from key provisions of seven major environmental laws, including the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act.
The nuclear power industry doesn’t like the wind tax break, either. Its most outspoken critic is Exelon, the nation’s largest nuclear plant owner with 23 reactors at 14 plant sites. The Chicago-based utility contends Midwest wind installations are cutting into its profit margins by driving down electricity prices, and it blames the PTC. The company has been lobbying Congress to terminate it, and as I reported earlier this week, it recently launched a front group, Nuclear Matters, to generate public support for keeping all U.S. reactors running.