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Ethics & Religion
July 28, 2021
Column #2,085
Build More Wind Farms
By Mike McManus

Rural areas of America are losing jobs and people. The nation is creating jobs in metro areas and people are fleeing rural counties. The rural exodus has come at a cost. As people have moved to urban areas, the lifeblood of many smaller communities has eroded.

However, rural Texas offers answers that other states ought to consider. It has built wind farms that made tax revenues skyrocket.

Oldham County in the Texas panhandle traditionally depended on oil and gas, which provided 20% of the county's budget. However, over the past decade, oil and gas revenues have plunged 80% to 90%. That sounds like what's happening in the coal fields of southwest Virginia.

However, six wind farms have opened in Oldham County, and they account for 50% of the county's tax revenue. In fact, wind farms now account for 2.5 times as much revenue as oil and gas did!

A group called Conservative Texans for Energy Innovation issued a report with this conclusion: "Because of the agreement that school districts were able to make with wind farms, three out of the four school districts were able to hold bond elections and build new facilities, something that would never have happened without the wind industry coming to town."

"Three-quarters of the cost of new school facilities can be directly attributed to the wind industry.

What's more - and this should get the attention of conservatives - thanks to all of the wind farm tax revenue, Oldham County has been able to cut the county real estate tax rate!

Wow. More services by government and at a lower tax rate!

Eleven years ago, Dominion Energy in Virginia bought 2,600 acres in Tazewell County with plans to build a wind farm. The county blocked it because the wind turbines would ruin the view. However, it was clear that many opposed the wind farms because they believed wind was the enemy of coal.

Nevertheless, in 2019 renewals passed coal according to a federal audit of energy consumption. In blocking wind farms, Tazewell didn't save coal but did forgo about $22 million of tax revenue over 25 years.

However, the deeper question isn't simply tax revenues but jobs. Can communities that were once dependent on one form of energy - whether it be coal or natural gas - build a new economy based on wind farms?

What's missing is a plan for how to lure the needed private investment. In November the mayors of eight cities from Pittsburgh to Louisville joined together to issue a call for a "Marshall Plan for Middle America."

They have a plan for how to turn the Ohio Valley into a Silicon Valley for renewable energy research and production. Various studies project the region will lose 100,000 jobs connected to fossil fuel in the coming years. But with the right investments renewable energy industries could create 410,000 jobs!

Will that happen? That is unclear. However, at least the region has a plan, and an ambitious one.

When will local leaders in your area put together a proposal to build wind farms to replace traditional coal and natural gas energy sources? Has it even been suggested by your political leaders?

The weather that's grabbing headlines and national news coverage are the fires in the West. Temperatures have hit record highs. A fire scorching parts of Northwest California's Butte County - the same county that in 2018 endured the deadliest wildfire in state history - is now the state's largest wildfire this year.

The Dixie Fire, which ignited July 13, has burned through 192,849 acres. More than 5,400 firefighters are battling the blaze. It has destroyed 15 structures including some houses and is threatening 10,000 others as it rages in Butte and Plumas Counties.

Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency in four counties. More than 16,000 people are under evacuation orders in Plumas and Butte Counties.
Is there a lesson here? Clearly, the fires have nothing to do with generating power for homes and businesses.

Yet Gov. Newsome - and other governors across America - ought to consider encouraging the building wind farms to give a new sense of hope.


Copyright (c)2021 Michael J. McManus, a syndicated columnist and past president of Marriage Savers. To read past columns, go to Hit Search for any topic.


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