Green crony capitalism: For LCV, AWEA profits churn in the wind

Election Day is less than two weeks away and The League of Conservation Voters has been deluging voters in Red States with competitive Senate races with television attack ads.

The ads are presented as being motivated by saving our planet. However the facts point to a tale of greed and profit funded by crony capitalists, who have formed an environmental interlocking directorate dedicated to the cash window open with a Democratic-controlled Senate.

The wind industry has become reliant on tax subsidies, handouts and giveaways for their very existence and a threat of a GOP majority in the Senate is a threat to taxpayer-funded life support system.

In July, American Wind Energy Association launched TV ads thanking Sen. Mark E. Udall (D.-Colo.) and Iowa Democratic Senate candidate Rep. Bruce L. Braley (D.-Iowa) for their support of wind tax subsidies.

But, it is the but its their puppet master connection to environmental groups that is setting off alarm bells in the halls of Congress. Working behind the scenes in almost every targeted state, the wind industry has paid for a blistering $25 million ad campaign designed to save the Senate for Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.). Notably, they are doing it through a front group — the LCV.

Since April, LCV has been on the air in Colorado attacking Rep. Cory S. Gardner (R-Colo.), who is running against Udall and Braley’s GOP challenger state Sen. Joni Ernst.
The head of AWEA is Tom Kiernan, an environmental activist, who sits on the LCV board of directors and is the group’s treasurer.

Under Kiernan’s leadership, the AWEA has spent more than $2.8 million lobbying Congress to extend the wind production tax credit, or PTC, and other subsidies and programs, such as allowing wind companies to structure as master limited partnerships. Master limited partnerships are publicly traded entities that provide income flow to its partners and are exempt from corporate taxes???because they are a partnership.

The League of Conservation Voters joined the fight in earnest upon Kiernan’s taking the AWEA helm. In May 2013, it posted on its blog: ???The Senate failed to renew the wind Production Tax Credit, which would have bolstered the burgeoning clean energy sector, lessened America???s dependence on dirty energy, and nurtured a cleaner environment. PTC promotes further wind energy development by providing the wind industry with billions in tax incentives.???

Other connections between AWEA and LCV are Mark Sokolove, the AWEA press secretary and former spokesman for LCV and Peter Mandelstam, who for 13 years was the chairman of the AWEA Offshore Group and who now sits on the LCV board.

Kiernan likes to say he has a foot in both camps as a registered Republican, but he is responsible for directed a ferocious assault on GOP candidates.

Remember, he once was an environmental activist, but now he is the head of an industry trade with billions of invested capital at stake. His mission is not to save the earth. His mission is to save special treatment for the wind power barons.

Without tax credits and other subsides from taxpayers, there would be no wind power anywhere. Despite all the king’s horses and all the king’s men, the most optimistic projection for wind power predicts that it will be competitive with coal or natural gas in the next 10 to 15 years.

This is hardly a compelling investment pitch.

There are four major facing wind power. First, the constant low hum of the wind turbines is destructive to the hearing and sanity of people unlucky enough near the wind farms. Second, wind farms are killing fields for the flocks of birds that pass through???including the Bald Eagles, who appreciate the vantage point while perching on the wind towers. Third, there are no lubricant available that can handle the torque produced in high speed winds, so unless you send technicians constantly up and down a 200-foot ladder to change the oil, the gearbox bursts into flames. The fourth major problem is that the wind turbine blades, which range from $50,000 for a 50-foot blade to $125,000 for a 300-foot blade, fly off the hub without warning endangering life and property.

It is important to note that wind subsidies expired at the end of 2013, but the industry and the IRS have been acting under the assumption that they will be extended retroactively. The current subsidy regime was negotiated by the Republican leadership as part of the surrender treaty that ended the fiscal cliff crisis.

The current notional tax credits were fashioned when the Republican leadership surrendered to President Barack Obama after the president threatened to take the government over the fiscal cliff.

Washington today, conservatives have to worry about cliffs, but the real problem is the slopes???the slippery slopes the Republicans find themselves on when they misplace their moral compass.

One senator slipping down is Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, who tried in April to renew the ???extenders, which is the parlance for the suite of tax breaks and other gifts to green energy investors, including the wind subsidies. It was Hatch’s bill that passed the Senate Finance Committee, but failed to reach the Senate floor.

At the time, Hatch said: ???We need to set partisanship and political gamesmanship aside and get the extenders package across the finish line as soon as possible.???

Capitol Hill conservatives know that the real finish line is not the Nov. 4 election, but the end of the current congressional session in January.

In the weeks before the election, things are going to be quiet legislatively. But, in the lame duck session that follows look for all those tax extenders to be put back on life support.

Remember, the trouble in Washington is not when Democrats and Republicans disagree.

The trouble in Washington comes when Democrats and Republicans find things they do agree on.

In the lame duck session, Republicans and Democrats returning to private life might put the interest of taxpayers aside when the opportunity to curry favor with the president and his wealthy friends in the green energy trade comes along.