Wind Energy: Republicans Offer Support From Breezy States

Source: Pete Danko • Huffington Post • Posted: Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The production tax credit (PTC) for renewable energy didn’t shrivel up and blow away when Congress failed to include an extension with tax legislation passed earlier this month. The wind industry, which says development will grind to a halt without the PTC, is continuing to push for an extension, and is doing so with what appears to honest-to-goodness bipartisan support.

In fact, most of the noise for this green-energy subsidy seems to be coming from wind-state Republicans, who could end up playing a sort of savior role.

One of the most persistent voices calling for the PTC to live on past its Dec. 31 expiration is Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), a fierce critic of the Obama agenda — except when it comes to wind. Iowa is a leading wind power state, and King’s 5th Congressional District is home to several large plants.

“Iowa was the first state to generate 20 percent of its electricity from wind,” King wrote in an op-ed supporting the PTC extension. “Now, wind supports as many as 5,000 Iowa jobs, and $11 million in annual land lease payments to Iowa farmers. Iowa wind has prompted $300 million in private investment in Iowa manufacturing facilities.”

In deeply red Kansas, support for the PTC comes from Republican Gov. Sam Brownback — joining Republican governors from Iowa [PDF] and Oklahoma [PDF] in backing the extension — and from Rep. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.). Moran’s district includes the Hutchinson Wind Energy plant, where Siemens employs more than 350 people to make turbine nacelles.

During a recent visit to the plant, Moran told a local newspaper, “There’s no doubt in my mind if we extend it that this is a job creator. More people will be working and paying taxes and helping get our financial house in order.”

After the failure to get the extension through earlier this month, the American Wind Energy Association said there was still time to take action, but added that due to the long lead times for wind projects, an extension really needed to happen in the first quarter of the year in order to avoid big job losses.

Moran and Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) said they would try to get the PTC extension into a big transportation bill now making its way through Congress. Their challenge in that effort — and in any other effort that might emerge, should this one fail — is to convince Republicans from states where the wind industry isn’t a big player to risk supporting the PTC. And the risk is real, as Moran would no doubt attest; he was attacked in a piece on the conservative site Red State for “supporting Obama’s policy of picking losers in the energy sector.”

Moran has tried to deflect that criticism by supporting just a one-year extension of the PTC, instead of the four-year extension that has been under consideration.

King, for his part, has attempted to cast the continuation of the tax credit as a move to not increase taxes on wind power production. “Wind industry leaders know how to expand this business and provide more U.S. jobs,” he wrote in his op-ed. “They just need Washington to provide stable, low tax rates. The PTC means keeping investment dollars in the market place — not in the hands of government.”