US Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney supports the US wind industry, even though he opposes extension of the main federal tax credit that promotes its development, a spokeswoman for his campaign says.
“Governor Romney is a strong supporter of wind power and appreciates the industry’s extraordinary technological progress and its important contributions to America’s energy supply,” Amanda Henneberg says.
President Barack Obama’s administration has provided billions of dollars in subsidies and other support to the wind industry, but this has done more harm than good, she contends.
“Governor Romney will instead set the industry on a course for success and growth by promoting policies that remove regulatory barriers, support free enterprise and market-based competition, and reward technological innovation,” Henneberg says, without providing details.
As governor of Massachusetts from 2003 to 2007, Romney used state money to support and promote clean energy ventures as a way to create jobs and lure investment. Since announcing his candidacy in June 2011, he has moved to the right on the political spectrum, embracing many conservative stances on economic and social issues that predominate in the Republican Party.
Until now, he has done little to dissuade voters that he believes renewable energy is uneconomic and undeserving of federal support.
“We should not be in the business of steering investment toward particular politically favored approaches,” he says in “Believe in America,” his economic growth plan. “That is a recipe for both time and money wasted on projects that do not bring us dividends. The failure of windmills and solar plants to become economically viable or make a significant contribution to our energy supply is a prime example.”
Romney calls solar and wind two of the most “ballyhooed” forms of alternative fuel, saying they remain sharply uncompetitive on their own with conventional resources such as oil and gas in most applications. “Indeed, at current prices, these technologies make little sense for the consuming public but great sense only for the companies reaping profits from taxpayer subsidies,” he says.
While that stance helped him defeat a dozen rivals in primaries where turnout is relatively low, he is finding that it is unpopular with the broader base of Republican and independent voters in the wind resource-rich Midwest and Colorado. The wind industry supports thousands of jobs in Iowa, Kansas and Oklahoma, where Republican governors and most party lawmakers in Congress oppose Romney’s drive to end the production tax credit.
First enacted in 1992, the PTC is worth $22/MWh, inflation-adjusted for a project’s first decade in operation. The original bill was written by Iowa’s senior US senator, Charles Grassley, a Republican, and signed into law by the first President George Bush, also a Republican.
Romney’s recent move to have a spokesman in Iowa dispel talk that he might be willing as president to renew the PTC if tied to a firm termination date, was taken without conferring with party leaders there.
An irate Grassley said this in response: “There were people from outside the state who came into Iowa and issued a press release that the Republican candidate for president was opposed to wind energy. I felt it was just like a knife in my back, as the author of the bill, without even being consulted about it.”
He also says that “it’s not right to single out one energy incentive over others before a broader tax reform debate.”
Governor Terry Branstad told Radio Iowa that he hopes to talk with Romney and educate him on the importance of wind energy for his state. He slammed the Romney campaign website for calling wind turbines “windmills,” and asserting that they don’t help the country’s energy mix.
“They don’t understand,” he says. Those that put the website together are a “bunch of east coast people that need to get out here in the real world to find out what’s really going on.”
Iowa ranks second among states in wind installations after Texas. There is about $3bn in wind investment being carried out in Kansas and Oklahoma is also undergoing an aggressive wind build out.
Polls show Obama widening his nationwide lead over Romney to as much as nine percentage points. The Republican Party will nominate Romney as its candidate at a national convention that starts 27 August. If elected, he would take office 20 January.
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