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Mr. ALEXANDER. Mr. President, the majority leader is coming to the floor at 6:30, and I will yield to him at that time.
I would like to thank Neena Imam, who is sitting with me, for serving on my staff for the past two years as a fellow with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. She has done a terrific job working for me on energy and environmental policy.
Mr. President, today is the 100th anniversary of Milton Friedman's birthday, the Nobel Prize Laureate. One of his most important statements, in my opinion, was this, ``Nothing is so permanent as a temporary government program.'' It was reported by several media outlets that Governor Mitt Romney has taken the position that the wind production tax credit should be allowed to expire at the end of the year. He must have known Milton Friedman's birthday was coming today. I wouldn't presume to speak for Milton Friedman, but I think he would applaud Governor Romney's position. It shows his seriousness about our fiscal problems in the United States. It's time to end a temporary tax credit that was put into law in 1992, when President George H.W. Bush was in office and when Milton Friedman was only 80 years old. The wind production tax credit was a temporary tax break, in 1992 to encourage wind power. We give wind developers 2.2 cents for every kilowatt-hour of wind electricity produced. And now it's about to expire at the end of the year. It needs to be extended again the developers say. Nothing is so permanent as a temporary government program. They tell us just one more time. But it is an argument like this that has got us into the fiscal mess we have as a Nation.
The United States of America, according to the Joint Tax Committee and the U.S. Treasury, is spending $14 billion on subsidizing giant wind turbines over a five-year period, $6 billion of it is this production tax credit. That's why I am so pleased to see Governor Romney support the idea of more responsibility in our spending. We spend too much money in Washington that we do not have, and it has to stop. There are many reasons we don't need this particular provision of the tax code.
First, we can't afford it. From 2009 through 2013, the tax credit will cost taxpayers $6 billion over five years, and the grants will cost another $8 billion over that same five years. At a time when the federal government is borrowing 40 cents of every dollar it spends, we cannot justify such a subsidy, especially for what the U.S. Energy Secretary calls a ``mature technology.''
Second, despite all the money, it produces a relatively small amount of electricity, producing only 2.3 percent of our electricity in the United States. We're a big country. We use 25 percent of all the electricity in the world. We're not going to operate our country through windmills.
Third, these massive turbines too often destroy the environment in the name of saving the environment. Some are 50 stories high--taller than the Statue of Liberty--with blades as long as a football field, weighing seven tons and spinning at 150 miles an hour, with blinking lights visible for 20 miles. These aren't your grandma's windmills. These gigantic turbines are three times as tall as the sky boxes at University of Tennessee's Neyland Stadium in Knoxville. There is a new movie called ``Windfall'' about residents in upstate New York who are upset and have left their homes because of these big wind turbines.
Mr. President, the majority leader has come to the floor, and I will forgo my remarks at this time so he has a chance to say what he wishes to say.
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Mr. ALEXANDER. I thank the majority leader for his courtesy, and I will continue.
The fourth reason that we don't need to allow these production tax credits for wind to be renewed is that they have not created as many American jobs as expected. An American University study reported in 2009 that the first $1 billion of stimulus grants to wind went to foreign manufacturing companies.
And what did we get in return for these billions of dollars of subsidies? A puny amount of unreliable electricity generated mostly at night when we don't use it.
I mentioned a little earlier that our country is a big country. It uses lots of electricity. The Senator from Rhode Island was talking about the problems in India that are being caused by failure of the grid. We need large amounts of reliable baseload electricity to power this country. We're very fortunate that we have, through unconventional natural gas discoveries, found that we're going to have a lot of cheap natural gas in the United States, and we can make electricity from natural gas power plants at a low cost and with very little air pollution.
Nuclear power produces 70 percent of our carbon-free electricity, and 20 percent of the total electricity generated in the U.S. It needs to be a part of our future energy mix. Coal should also be part of our energy future, as long as coal plants have pollution control equipment on them to reduce the sulfur, nitrogen and mercury. I was one of those senators who voted to require coal plants that operate in the future to have pollution control equipment on them. This means in a few years every operating coal plant in the United States will be clean except for carbon, and I am convinced that such programs as ARPA-E at the Department of Energy will find what I think is the holy grail of energy technologies.
One of the companies that ARPA-E invests federal research dollars in is experimenting with growing micro-organisms on electrodes. These bacteria can turn carbon dioxide into fuel. In other words, they create a commercial energy use for the carbon that comes from our coal plants. And when that happens, the United States will have massive amounts of cheap, clean, reliable electricity. And we won't be powering our country with windmills.
We should congratulate Dr. Friedman for his great career, for his wisdom in pointing out to us that nothing is so permanent as a temporary government program, and applaud Governor Romney for recognizing that and calling for the end of this tax credit.
We're coming upon something we call the fiscal cliff. I know the senator from Colorado is very interested in this, spending a lot of time working in a bipartisan way to try to find a way to deal with it. My friend, the Foreign Minister of Australia, is a great fan of the United States, and he said to the United States that we're one budget agreement away from restoring our global preeminence--One budget agreement away from restoring our global preeminence.
Now, to get that agreement what do we have to do? We have to deal with appropriations bills at the end of the year, a problem we may have solved today with a solution the leaders recommended. We have to deal with the Bush tax cuts, and multiple items that expire at the end of the year such as the tax extenders that need to be renewed or not, and the alternative minimum tax which started out as a tax on rich people and now threatens to impact millions of Americans. There's appropriate payment to doctors who provide medical care, we call this the doc fix. There is the sequester that none of us likes. There's the problem of the debt limit, the payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits. All of this is happening at the end of the year.
This is a good time to get serious about with dealing with the fiscal cliff, and let a 20 year, temporary tax break to encourage wind energy--which costs the American people $6 billion over five years--to expire and let wind stand on its own. I would suggest that for the $6 billion in savings we put $2 of every $3 we save into reducing the debt and $1 into energy research to see if we can find even more amounts of cheap, clean energy.
So it is a good occasion to celebrate Milton Friedman's 100th birthday, and it is a good occasion to applaud Governor Romney for following Milton Friedman's advice: ``Nothing is so permanent as a temporary government program.''
I thank the Presiding Officer. I thank the majority leader for his courtesy.
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