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Will wind energy go bust like ethanol?

Wind power is booming — at the moment.

Companies are flocking to build turbine and blade plants in the United States, such as the one Siemens will build in Hutchinson, Kansas. The amount of energy harvested from wind rose 50 percent last year to 25,300 megawatts.

For the people in the ethanol industry, it must sound sadly like deja vu.

Ethanol, too, was a can't-miss technology with the tide of history on its side. Today, ethanol is a seriously troubled industry filled with idle plants and bankrupt companies.

Will wind repeat ethanol's bust, as it has its boom?

The answer is: Possibly. It depends on politics, the health of the credit markets and the price of coal, oil and natural gas.

The prospects of ethanol and wind look reasonably bright, given the political climate and long-term environmental concerns, said experts.

The Obama administration included in its stimulus package $56 billion in grants and tax breaks for clean energy projects over the next 10 years, and $15 billion annually in the budget.

A few years ago, ethanol's future looked bright. The price of oil was skyrocketing, and credit was flowing freely.

The federal government encouraged the growth of ethanol with significant subsidies and requirements.

A tax credit to refiners amounts to 51 cents per gallon of ethanol. It lowers costs and allows producers to remain profitable at lower prices.

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