Mitt Romney, a gentleman who is running for president of these United States, finally formalized his opposition to extending a key tax credit for the wind industry. The production tax credit, or PTC, provides incentives for growth in the wind industry and is due to expire at the end of the year. While his staff had previously suggested that the candidate opposed it, a spokesperson was direct yesterday: let it die. From The Des Moines Register:
Shawn McCoy, a spokesman for Romney’s Iowa campaign, told The Des Moines Register, “He 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.”
The statement makes very clear what the game is here: politics. “Stimulus boondoggles” and “level playing field” are code words, shorthand for “corruption” and “fossil fuels come first” that need no explanation from the Fox News set. Romney’s argument isn’t that the return on wind investments doesn’t pay off or that he has a better strategy for increasing the use of renewable energy to achieve the goal of energy independence. It’s talking points.
Fine. We get it. We’ve got fewer than 100 days until the election. But here’s what spiking the wind energy credit means for Iowa, according to the Register:
Iowa has five major manufacturers: Acciona in West Branch, Clipper in Cedar Rapids, Siemens in Fort Madison and TPI and Trinity in Newton. Together they employ around 2,300 people. Counting suppliers and other wind-related smaller businesses, the job count is 6,000 to 7,000, industry representatives said.
The uncertainty of the wind tax credit’s fate has already caused orders for turbine production for next year to drop steeply. When Congress delayed extension of the tax break twice in the past, wind projects faltered and workers were laid off. Clipper laid off 90 people in 2009 when projected orders for turbines fell from 450 to about 200.
Nationally, an expiration of the tax credit could cost 37,000 jobs.
But if Romney wants to play politics, let’s play politics. The offered rationale for these losses — “Boondoggles!” “Level playing field!” — aren’t going to play well in Iowa. A poll done by the not-without-bias American Wind Energy Association suggests that 57 percent of Iowa voters (including 59 percent of independents) would be less likely to vote for an opponent of wind generation [PDF]. Eighty-five percent believe that wind generation has been a boon for the state. So Romney’s anti-wind stance certainly won’t help in the state (though it’s not a death blow). And Iowa is already leaning Obama, according to the polling gurus at FiveThirtyEight. But the Romney campaign clearly hopes this position will help elsewhere.
Instead of talking points, I’d be more interested in seeing an economic analysis provided by the campaign that makes the case for why ending the tax credit is good for the country, the government, and local communities. It seems unlikely to happen, since evidence points to the contrary — that the credit has broad benefits to everyone except the easily spooked fossil fuel industy.
A final note. Romney’s position is further to the right than even some of the Republican party’s more excited partisans. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), a regular opponent of rationality, wrote the bill that created the PTC and told the Register that he supported an extension. (And, then, a phaseout. He’s not that far outside the orthodoxy.)
Most telling of all: Mitt Romney is now more conservative on renewable energy than Karl Rove.
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