Wind tax credit at center of presidential election spat

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By Jon Hurdle

 

The scheduled expiration of a production tax credit for the wind industry has taken center stage in the energy policy debate between President Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

The credit, which allows taxpayers to claim 2.2 cents for every kilowatt hour of wind energy produced by a utility-scale wind farm, is due to expire on Dec. 31, 2012, a prospect that is already causing layoffs in the wind industry, according to its advocates.

That's fine with Governor Romney, who says he would allow the credit to expire and end other renewable-energy subsidies in order to foster more competition between all forms of energy.

The four letter word: "jobs"
But President Obama is urging Congress to extend the credit, saying 37,000 jobs could be lost if it expires.

"We're at a moment right now when homegrown energy, like wind energy, is creating new jobs all across Iowa and all across the country," Obama said in speech in Iowa last week, a leading wind-producing state. "And guess what? Governor Romney said let's get rid of tax credits for wind-energy production."

Faced with the policy uncertainty, some makers of wind technology have already been laying off workers. They include 182 at Vestas, a leading manufacturer of wind turbines; and 167 workers who will lose their jobs at DMI in Tulsa, Oklahoma by November, according to data from the American Wind Energy Association.

"Unfortunately, the industry has begun letting workers go up and down our manufacturing supply chain," said AWEA CEO Denise Bode.

The panel also approved a one-year extension of an investment tax credit for the offshore wind industry.

Republican support for the wind industry may be no surprise given recent donations from the industry, according to Federal Election Commission filings. The donations include $5,000 to Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, a leading supporter of extending the PTC.

Grassley said the extension would "level the playing" field for wind versus fossil fuels, and predicted the committee's strong vote for the measure puts the PTC in a "strong position" for a vote of the full Senate this fall.

Democrats have also benefited from donations by the AWEA's political action committee. They include Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid who received $5,000 this year, according to FEC filings.

 

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