Which way the wind is blowing

Updated
 

We discussed a side issue last week in the 2012 presidential campaign, which may have an impact in some key battleground states: wind power.

While the wind production tax credit obviously won’t carry the kind of weight as jobs, economic growth, or health care, it’s become an interesting point of contention between President Obama and Mitt Romney in states like Iowa and Colorado, where even Republican policymakers believe the GOP presidential hopeful is being short-sighted.

Obama was in Colorado yesterday, speaking not far from a wind turbine manufacturing plant, driving the point home.

For those who can’t watch clips online, Obama said:

“At a moment when homegrown energy, renewable energy is creating new jobs in states like Colorado and Iowa, my opponent wants to end tax credits for wind energy producers. Think about what that would mean for a community like Pueblo. The wind industry supports about 5,000 jobs across this state. Without those tax credits, 37,000 American jobs, including potentially hundreds of jobs right here, would be at risk.

“Colorado, it’s time to stop spending billions in taxpayer subsidies on an oil industry that’s already making a lot of profit and let’s keep investing in new energy sources that have never been more promising. That’s the choice in this election.”

The issue is every bit as relevant, if not more so, in Iowa. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R) said this week he felt like “it was just like a knife in my back” when he learned Romney opposes the wind energy tax credit Grassley has helped champion.

This issue isn’t going away, nor should it.

The estimable Michael Grunwald had a great item on this earlier today.

Before President Obama took office, the U.S. had 25 gigawatts of wind power, and the government’s “base case” energy forecast expected 40 GW by 2030. Well, it’s not quite 2030 yet, but we’ve already got 50 GW of wind. We’ve also got about 5 GW of solar, which isn’t much, but is over six times more than we had before Obama. Mitt Romney has suggested that wind and solar are “imaginary” sources of energy, but they can now power 15 million homes, and their industries employ more than 300,000 Americans. That’s real.

On Thursday, Obama was in Colorado, a big wind state, talking about wind. On Wednesday, Romney was in Iowa, another big wind state, not talking about wind. But the media, for a change, were talking about wind, because Republicans in Iowa have criticized Romney’s opposition to tax credits for the wind industry. I would also point out, and not only because The New New Deal is coming out next week, that Romney and his party opposed the Obama stimulus bill that revived the wind industry and the rest of the clean-tech sector from a near-death experience. As I’ve written before, wind turbines the size of 747’s were rusting in the fields after the financial collapse of 2008; after Obama signed the stimulus, wind companies began pouring billions of dollars back into the U.S.

Grunwald added that recent advances in American clean energy have been “remarkable,” due in large part to the president’s investments.

Incidentally, why would tax credits that have enjoyed bipartisan support for years suddenly find themselves under attack by Romney, especially given that two critical swing states want the policy to continue? It may have something to do with the fact they’re now “a real threat to the fossil-fuel status quo.”

Wind Power, Iowa and Colorado

Which way the wind is blowing

Updated