A number of news reports and columns have been in the media discussing the renewable electricity production tax credit, which is set to expire Dec. 31. They present the decision whether or not to extend the credit as a debate about the jobs created by the wind energy industry versus the cost of the subsidy. But the credit was not created for job stimulus; it was created to reduce the probable harm caused by greenhouse gas emissions.
If in the dark of night you come upon a roadway covered with floodwater, you cannot tell for certain whether or not you can drive through it. But you do a reasonable thing and drive another route to avoid it. It cost you time and money and you may have been able to drive through it, but it was not worth the risk.
This is where we are at with greenhouse gas emissions. The summer 2012 Arctic ice size was half of the average size from 1979-2000. The coastal areas are having 100 year storms every five years or so. Here in the Midwest we have extreme drought over an extensive area for multiple years. All these issues were predicted by climate scientists 10 years ago, except they did not predict that they would be as bad as they are. Roughly nine out of ten climate scientists believe that greenhouse gas emissions are changing our climate for the worse.
Given the evidence about greenhouse gas emissions, extending the renewable electricity production tax credit is a reasonable thing to do. Opponents claim it will cost us about $30 per citizen, while proponents put the cost at half of that. Spending $15 to $30 for greenhouse gas reductions with some job growth on the side is probably a pretty good deal.
We can oppose the credit based on philosophical purity because it is government money helping a business. But the same can be said about wheat farming. The only honest opposition has to be a claim that we are smarter than 90% of climate scientist, that all the evidence is wrong, that we know with every reasonable certainty that we should do nothing about greenhouse gas emissions and that even a reasonable precaution like the tax credit for wind energy is the wrong thing to do. We have to insist on driving through the floodwater.