NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

America's Worst Wind Energy Project

October 17, 2011

The more people know about the wind energy business, the less they like it. And when it comes to lousy wind deals, General Electric's (GE) Shepherds Flat project in northern Oregon is a real stinker, says Robert Bryce, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute.

The arguments being put forward by wind energy proponents are similar to those that the Obama administration is using to justify its support of Solyndra, the now-bankrupt solar company that got a $529 million loan guarantee from the federal government.  In some ways, the government support for the Shepherds Flat deal is worse than what happened with Solyndra.

  • The majority of the funding for the $1.9 billion, 845-megawatt Shepherds Flat wind project is coming courtesy of federal taxpayers.
  • That largesse will provide a windfall for General Electric and its partners.

The Obama administration's loan guarantee for the now-bankrupt Solyndra has garnered lots of attention, but the Shepherds Flat deal is an even better example of corporate welfare.  Several questions are immediately obvious:

  • Why is the federal government providing loan guarantees and subsidies for an energy project that could easily be financed by GE, which has a market capitalization of about $170 billion?
  • Why is the Obama administration providing subsidies to GE, which paid little or no federal income taxes last year even though it generated some $5.1 billion in profits from its U.S. operations?
  • How is it that GE's CEO, Jeffrey Immelt, can be the head of the President's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness while his company is paying little or no federal income taxes?

Green jobs are costly.  If we ignore the value of the federal loan guarantee and only focus on the $490 million cash grant that will be given to GE and its partners when Shepherds Flat gets finished, the cost of the projected 35 permanent "green energy" jobs will be about $16.3 million each.

Source: Robert Bryce, "America's Worst Wind Energy Project," National Review Online, October 12, 2011.

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