Romney surrogate says wind energy credit stance not set

Source: By Ben Geman, • Posted: Thursday, July 12, 2012

A surrogate for GOP White House hopeful Mitt Romney said Wednesday that the presumptive nominee wants to end the production tax credit for wind energy projects, but is still deciding how the popular incentive should be phased out.

Romney’s stance could be critical for the wind energy industry, which is lobbying hard to maintain the incentive that industry officials call vital to funding new power projects.

Linda Stuntz, an energy lobbyist who represented Romney at a Wednesday debate, said that as a general principle, Romney “thinks these kinds of technology-specific incentives are a bad idea.”

“He thinks that this is an illustration of one that has probably outlived its usefulness, but as to how it should be precisely would down — whether it should be a one-year [phase-out], whether it should be a longer period — he hasn’t come completely to ground on that,” Stuntz said of the wind tax credit, speaking at the debate in Washington, D.C., hosted by The Business Roundtable.

The wind incentive is slated to expire at year’s end and the Obama administration is calling on Congress to renew the credit, warning that the uncertainty is already prompting layoffs in the wind energy supply chain.

The White House is calling for a permanent extension, but is open to other timeframes as part of a deal to prevent the credit from lapsing.

But the credit’s future is highly uncertain on Capitol Hill. Installation of new wind power projects has fallen off sharply when the credit has lapsed, which last happened in 2004.

Stuntz is a founding partner of the Washington, D.C., law firm Stuntz, Davis & Staffier, P.C.

 Stuntz’s career includes service as deputy secretary of Energy under former President George H.W. Bush, and before that she served as minority counsel to the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

She traded blows on energy policy with Dan Reicher, a surrogate for the Obama campaign.

Stuntz noted Romney supports basic R&D into green technologies, including the Energy Department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, or ARPA-E, while criticizing the Obama administration’s wider programs to spur commercialization of renewable energy sources.

“Government is bad at picking technology winners and losers. The U.S. should not be playing venture capitalist with taxpayer dollars conscripted from citizens,” Stuntz said.

Stuntz also revived allegations that the Obama administration imposes too many restrictions on fossil fuel development, alleging the U.S. oil-and-gas production boom is occurring “in spite of” the administration.

Reicher, representing Obama, defended the administration’s support for oil-and-gas development, and also cited support for nuclear power and endorsed administration investments in green energy projects, noting increases in renewable power generation in recent years.

Reicher, a Stanford University professor who until recently headed climate and energy initiatives for Google, and also served on Obama’s transition team, said Romney’s platform is too narrow.

“I think there is a number of areas where Governor Romney’s bet is on essentially being able to drill our way out of this. I don’t think the resources are there are overall, I don’t think it gives us the diversity of supply we need from a security perspective,” Reicher said, warning that Romney’s plans would cede green energy markets to China.