The production tax credit for renewable energy expired—most recently—at the end of 2013, and it’s unclear if Congress will renew it again. The program gives wind farms 2.3 cents for every kilowatt-hour of renewable energy they pump into the U.S. grid. Since it was enacted in 1992, the incentive has driven a sevenfold increase in the number of U.S. turbines. “Wind has grown so much that it’s approaching hydroelectric in scale,” says Gwen Bredehoeft, an analyst with the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Without the tax credit, Bredehoeft says, new turbine construction will probably stall until at least 2030, when the country will need more energy generation. Until then, this is the American wind-energy landscape.
In 2007, when my daughter was seven years old, we would brush our teeth together every night as part of our daily ritual. To conserve water, we would turn off the faucet after wetting our brushes and turn it back on only to rinse. One night, I didn’t turn off the water fast enough to her liking. She turned off the faucet, made an angry face at me, and growled, “Turn off the water, Daddy. The scientists need time.”