Last month, presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s campaign staff hinted that he would end the federal wind energy tax credit, and now the cat’s out of the bag: he will. As reported by the Des Moines Register earlier this week, a spokesperson for the campaign in Iowa declared that if elected President, Mr. Romney will “allow the wind credit to expire.”
As far as campaign missteps go, this one is a doozy. The reaction has been swift, merciless, and bipartisan. Campaign strategists could not have kicked up a bigger storm if they sent their candidate all the way to London to dis the city’s preparations for the 2012 Summer Olympics, and…wait, never mind.
Republicans React to Romney Wind Policy
Though Republican leaders have taken care to blame the campaign and not the candidate, they have not been shy about criticizing elimination of the wind tax credit.
U.S. Reprepresentative Tom Latham of Iowa came out with a statement the same evening, duly reported by the Register:
“I’m disappointed that the statement by Governor Romney’s spokesperson shows a lack of full understanding of how important the wind energy tax credit is for Iowa and our nation. It’s the wrong decision. Wind energy represents one of the most innovative and exciting sectors of Iowa’s economy.”
Republican senators from Iowa, Arkansas, and Massachusetts weighed in along similar lines and the Republican governor of Iowa, Terry Branstad, followed up with an interview on Radio Iowa in which he blamed “a bunch of east coast people” for Romney’s position.
Wind Power and Jobs, Jobs, Jobs
With the help of the tax credit, the U.S. wind industry has established a solid track record of creating thousands of jobs in manufacturing, shipping, installation, maintenance, and repair. That’s particularly true of Iowa, which has emerged as a wind industry leader according to the American Wind Energy Association.
The wind industry is also creating new high quality jobs in research and development. That includes the new Wind Energy Manufacturing Laboratory at the University of Iowa, a new wind turbine testing facility at Clemson University in South Carolina, and a new facility at Texas Tech University, all in partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy.
In addition, wind power is just one form of alternative energy that is beginning to play a pivotal role in rural economies, beyond the generation of clean energy (biomass and biogas are two other good examples).
In his radio interview, Branstad pointed out that Iowa farmers are making good money collecting rent from wind turbines on their property, which could turn out to be a lifeline for local economies in this year’s historic drought.
A new wind farm in Missouri also illustrates how new tax revenues from wind farms are going toward community-wide economic development projects, and Kansas’s plan for exporting wind energy to other states shows how wind power can bring new revenues to the statewide economies as well.
To sum it all up, in an otherwise lackluster economy the wind industry has been a success story, and anyone who is serious about job creation should be laying plans to keep things humming along the same track. Like they say, if it ain’t broke…
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Tina Casey specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. You can also follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.