Romney backs away from letting wind tax credit expire

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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At a Friday campaign event in Iowa — a major wind energy producing state — Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney announced that he was in favor of phasing out of renewable energy subsidies once the industry is on its feet.

This stands in stark contrast to his previous opposition to phasing outone particular renewable energy subsidy — the Wind Production Tax Credit. Instead Romney wanted to let the credit expire entirely.

“We will support nuclear and renewables, but phase out subsidies once an industry is on its feet,” Romney told the crowd in Ames, Iowa.

“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,” said Shawn McCoy, a spokesman for Romney’s Iowa campaign, according to the Hill at the end of July.

“Wind energy will thrive wherever it is economically competitive, and wherever private sector competitors with far more experience than the president believe the investment will produce results,” McCoy continued.

Earlier that month, Romney’s campaign was wrestling with the question of phasing out the tax credit or scrapping it immediately.

Romney’s comments were made with less than two weeks left until the election in a swing state state where he is running behind. Iowa — with six electoral votes — breaks 46.7 percent for Romney and 49 percent for President Obama, according to the RealClearPolitics polling average.

However, Romney has recently had a bout of luck in winning endorsements from all four major newspapers in Iowa, including the Des Moines Register, which had backed  Obama in 2008.

“Voters should give Mitt Romney a chance to correct the nation’s fiscal course and to implode the partisan gridlock that has shackled Washington and the rest of America,” the Des Moines Register says in its endorsement. “[W]ith the understanding that he would face the same assessment in four years if he does not succeed.”

Wind power generated 19 percent of the state’s total electricity generation in 2011, making Iowa one of the most wind reliant states in the country. According to the American Wind Energy Association, Iowa also supported between 6,000 and 7,000 wind jobs in 2011.

The federal Wind Production Tax Credit was enacted in 1992 to get the wind industry off the ground. Congress has renewed the credit seven times and let it expire three times since it was enacted, and now uncertainty over its passage has lawmakers and the industry scrambling.

Earlier this month, Vestas-American Wind Technology, a Danish wind turbine maker, announced layoffs of more than 800 of its North American workforce so far this year due to the uncertainty surrounding the extension of wind tax credits.

“Wind energy significantly reduces consumers’ electric bills by displacing fuel use at the most expensive power plants, even if some competitors now attempt to argue otherwise because they’ve invested in more expensive forms of power,” Peter Kelley, vice president of public affairs at the American Wind Energy Association, a wind industry group, wrote in an email to The Daily Caller News Foundation.

Last month, 47 Republicans in the House, including Rep. Mike Pompeo of Kansas, wrote a letter to Speaker Boehner asking him to allow the wind PTC to expire.

“We believe that the Solyndra scandal has demonstrated that it is time for the federal government to stop picking winners and losers in the energy marketplace,” according to the letter. “Twenty years of subsidizing wind is more than enough.”

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