Keystone XL protests in Nebraska. (Photo by Mitch Paine.)

At the end of this year, the production tax credit (PTC) for the wind industry will expire. The credit, which we’ve covered before, provides an incentive for the production of renewable power. The fossil-fuel industry hates it, because it’s convinced that only it should be bolstered by the government.

Mitt Romney hates it too, or says he does, thrusting the PTC into the middle of the presidential campaign. By some estimates, the expiration of the wind credit would cost 37,000 jobs in the industry — many in swing states like Colorado, where uncertainty over the credit’s future is already prompting Vestas Wind Systems to lay off workers.

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Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), who represents laid-off Vestas workers, has an idea for a compromise: a bill that would preserve the PTC — and finalize construction of Keystone XL. According to Politico, Gardner believes the idea has traction in the House.

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This is a terrible idea — but one that fits squarely into the “all of the above” rhetoric promoted by both political parties.

The reason the credit is valuable is that it promotes movement away from fossil fuels. But the real problem with the proposal is that it’s an unfair trade — a minor boost for a nascent industry compared to a hugely profitable increase in the flow of toxic sludge across multiple states. It’s like a compromise that maintains a horse’s two-second head start in a race against a car that in turn receives a rocket engine.

It’s not surprising that Gardner sees a positive response. The majority of the House (read: the Republicans) want the Keystone XL pipeline built, as do their donors from the oil and gas industry. Maintaining an existing credit for wind power is a tiny thing to give up to make that happen. And as we get closer to November, it will be harder and harder for a candidate who argues for “all of the above” to say no.

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