President Barack Obama will be in Ames Tuesday. He’s likely to bring up the wind energy tax credit. That federal tax credit is set to expire at the end of this year. And the president’s opponent Mitt Romney opposes extending that credit. It's put Iowa’s top Republicans at odds with Governor Romney.
Iowa’s top Republicans--from Senator Chuck Grassley to Governor Terry Branstad-- want Romney to reconsider and give the tax credit a little more time.
"If we’re ever going to balance the budget obviously we’re going to have to look at everything..” said Republican Tom Latham, who faces a tough campaign against Democrat Leonard Boswell for Iowa's newly drawn 3rd district.
This wind industry has become pretty important to Iowa’s economy. The Iowa Wind Energy Association said the state was the first to produce 20 percent of its energy from wind. 7,000 jobs here are tied to the manufacturing of these wind turbines. Many of those jobs would be lost if the tax credit expires said the Iowa Wind Energy Association. And it’s a domino effect from there, many other construction jobs tied to the industry would go away.
Gov. Romney has avoided talking specifically about wind energy when he campaigns in Iowa.
“I’m going to take advantage of our energy resources," Romney told voters at a campaign event in Bettendorf last week. "Our coal, our gas, our oil, our wind, our solar – nuclear, we’re going to take advantage of the energy we have here and build that pipeline from Canada too!"
Romney wants wind energy to fail or thrive on its own... without tax dollars.
"(Gov. Romney) will 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,” Romney Spokesperson Shawn McCoy told IPR News in an e-mail.
That's not too far off from what Joe Baker, CEO of wind power company Acciona wants. He said he'd like to see the tax credit extended for a few more years so the industry can sustain itself.
“Right now you don’t know what the future is," Baker said in his West Branch, Iowa office. "I can’t plan.”
That’s because Baker doesn’t know if the wind energy production tax credit will even be around next year because of the presidential race.
Harold Prior, with the Iowa Wind Energy Association, said right now the market uncertainty has spurred some companies to increase production ahead of the expiration date of the tax credit.
“Right now it’s a boom time for them because they’ve got all kinds of orders," Prior said. "Companies are trying to get these turbines in the ground and they already planned wind farm development across the nation, they’re trying to get them in the ground and commissioned before the end of this year”
Prior points out other wind energy companies are shedding jobs because of that market uncertainty. That’s a point made by the Obama campaign in this ad running in the state.
“Romney would jeopardize of thousands of jobs," The advertisement said "And knock the wind out of Iowa’s economy.”
So the wind energy industry and politicians in Iowa on both sides of the aisle want what they say is just a few more years to make the industry viable. The tax credit costs 1.36 billion dollars a year.