Romney’s policy on wind energy is a real job-killer

  • Published on September 13th, 2012
President Obama visits and Iowa windfarm
President Obama visits and Iowa windfarm

You hear the GOP call just about anything they don’t like a job-killer. Especially regulations – the kind that keep power companies from poisoning your kids with mercury, keep oil companies from running unsafe rigs that blow up and dump millions of gallons of crude into our oceans and rivers, and keep coal companies from running unsafe mines that kill workers.

Climate Progress reports that, in newspapers alone, use of the phrase has actually jumped 17,550 percent since 2007,

But the GOP’s wind energy policy – the policy of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan – is an actual job-killer – an estimated 37,000 jobs – and it’s already costing them support in the battleground state of Iowa. So why are they doing it?

At issue is the wind energy tax credit, a subsidy that has helped the wind energy industry surgeed 123%  in the past four years, created 200,000 jobs, and helped to move manufacturing of wind turbines  from China (which also has subsidies to help its infant industry compete) to places like Iowa and Michigan. Wind currently provides 20 percent of the electricity in Iowa, and with a little help could grow to provide 20 percent for the whole country by 2030.

This was once a bi-partisan issue – when the credit was passed in 1992, Iowa’s GOP Senator Chuck Grassley was a sponsor (who now calls Romney’s opposition to renewal “A knife in my back”).

But the law that created the tax credit expires at the end of this year, and while the extension is moving forward in the Senate, with full support from President Obama, the GOP-run House has been blocking it  – on ideological grounds.

They claim it’s unfair for the government to “pick winners and losers”, and that only the free market should be allowed to decide whether wind power makes it.

There are a few minor quibbles with that philosophy, though:

  • Industries in America have always gotten subsidies to help them get started, from the railroads (which got huge land grants) to the auto industry (which would never have survived if the government hadn’t paid for the smooth roads that cars need, plus a host of other infrustructure). Without government support, there would be no internet, no aerospace, no human genome…
  • China and Europe subsidize the hell out of their wind industry, which has helped it grow xxxxx. So they’re no level playing field, and chopping off the subsidies here will just kill the US industry and ship those jobs to China and Germany.
  • Energy industries in America continue to get huge subsidies, including oil and gas, coal, and especially nuclear, which was born out of a government program and wouldn’t survive at all without the government backing it up. And of course, there’s ethanol, a government-backed boondoggle that’s hugely popular in the farm states.

Several times over the past few years, Democrats have tried to eliminate the billions of dollars in subsidies for big oil, only to be beaten back by the GOP howling “This will kill jobs!”. So much for the philosophical commitment to pure unadulterated capitalism. It seems pretty clear that the only GOP philosophy that applies is “Pork for me, and nada for thee.”

You’ll also hear the GOP complaining on a regular basis that we need to eliminate uncertainty for businesses so that they will be comfortable creating jobs, a not-unreasonable argument. It’s played out pretty well in the wind industry, where billions of dollars in projects have been delayed or cancelled over the past few months as the deadline for renewal looms.

Writing in the Iowa’s Sioux City JournalSheila K. Tipton points out that, “Because Congress hasn’t extended the production tax credit for wind generation owners, no turbine sales are projected in the U.S. for the next year. None. Without extension of the tax credit, the wind industry will not grow. Investors are waiting to see what Congress does.”

If the tax credit dies, it throws their business plans into turmoil… but that doesn’t seem to bother the GOP. Again, their only commitment seems to be “Business certainty for our friends, and nada for the rest of you.”

Tipton adds,

 No state stands to benefit more than does Iowa should the tax credit be extended. And no state economy will suffer more should Congress allow the credit to expire.

Today there are approximately 400 wind turbine component manufacturers and wind-related businesses in 43 states across America— companies that design and create parts for, and construct, operate and maintain the 260-foot tall windmills dotting our cornfields. Of those 400 businesses, the Iowa Wind Energy Association (IWEA) reports that 200 companies have locations in Iowa. Every one of those 200 businesses employs Iowans; credible estimates report up to 7,000 full-time jobs. That means paychecks for families who buy locally to put food on tables and gas in cars and pay mortgages and taxes and send children to neighborhood schools.

…This isn’t a narrow issue and it isn’t stupid. It is about our economy.

What can you do? Call your member of Congress and tell them to renew the Wind Energy Tax Break!

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About the Author

Jeremy Bloom is the Editor of RedGreenAndBlue. He lives in New York, where he combines his passion for the environment with his passion for film, and is working on making the world a better place.