Nobody would argue that there are great masses of voters across the land staking their presidential votes on how Mitt Romney and Barack Obama stand on the production tax credit for wind power. But there might be a few in some key states, and those voters now have a clear choice on the issue.
The Romey campaign came out Monday firmly against extending the PTC, seen by the industry as vital to its continued growth and supported by a number of Republicans in states where wind power has been a jobs booster.
One of those Republicans is Rep. Tom Latham, whose state of Iowa has become the No. 2 wind power producer in the U.S. and a center for wind power manufacturing.
“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,” Latham said in a statement released soon after the Romney camp’s declaration of opposition. “It’s the wrong decision. Wind energy represents one of the most innovative and exciting sectors of Iowa’s economy. Nearly 7,000 hardworking Iowans are employed by over 250 businesses associated with the wind energy industry in our state…. I invite Governor Romney to step forward and re-evaluate the statement issued by his campaign spokesman.”
The “statement” referenced was made Monday by Shawn McCoy, a spokesman for Romney’s Iowa campaign, who told the Des Moines Register Romney “will allow the wind credit to expire, end the stimulus boondoggles, and create a level playing field on which all sources of energy can compete on their merits.”
President Obama has been a strong advocate for the tax credit. Despite having what qualifies in Washington these days as bipartisan support, efforts by wind power proponents to extend the credit beyond its Dec. 31 expiration have stalled in the Senate, where the requirement of 60 votes to pass legislation has proved insurmountable. The credit, worth 2.2 cents for every kilowatt-hour of power produced, generally has run for two years but hasn’t been allowed to expire since 2004.
Every time the tax credit has expired, the wind industry has gone into virtual hibernation – and that’s the forecast again from the American Wind Energy Association. It says 37,000 jobs could be lost if the PTC doesn’t gain an extension, and soon.
The PTC might seem an unlikely player in a national election focused on the state of the economy, but in what could be harrowingly tight states, even shifting a very small percentage of votes could make a real difference. That’s because in some states — in Iowa, for instance — wind is seen as a jobs issue, and it’s very popular: Public Opinion Strategies, which polls for Republican candidates, reported recently [PDF] that in the Hawkeye State, “More than half of voters (57%), including 41% of Republicans and 59% of Independents, would be less likely to vote for a candidate for President if that candidate did not support expanding American wind power generation.”
Colorado is another swing state where a strong anti-wind stand like Romney’s could be a factor. There, the Denver Post noted Monday that Vestas has said it would likely be forced to lay off most of its Colorado workers – 1,700 people at facilities in Brighton, Windsor and Pueblo – if the tax credit isn’t extended. In Colorado, like Iowa, support for wind is bipartisan; Republican Reps. Cory Gardner and Scott Tipton have both come out in favor of the PTC.