Speaking in Dubuque, Iowa yesterday, Vice President Joe Biden lashed out at Mitt Romney for his willingness to kill a key tax credit for the wind industry — a sector that supports more than 7,000 jobs in the state.
With energy now a top issue in the presidential campaign, the Administration is starting to use Romney’s disdain for renewables against him in states like Iowa, where wind accounts for 20 percent of electricity and supports hundreds of businesses.
“We are importing less oil than [at] any time in the last 16 years,” Biden said. “But we think you got to bet on it all … You had our good friend Mitt Romney saying he dismissed wind and solar by saying they’re ‘two of the most ballyhooed forms of alternative energy.’ Tell that to the 7,000 workers manufacturing wind power here in Iowa.”
President Obama was in Iowa last month touting the economic impact of the wind industry and urging Congress to extend the production tax credit set to expire at the end of this year. According to a study from Navigant Consulting, around 37,000 American jobs could be at risk if the tax credit expires.
The Obama Administration is doing everything it can to counter attacks from Romney and other Republicans on energy — pushing offshore oil drilling in the Arctic, approving the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline, and using its climate and energy chief to “woo” the oil and gas lobby.
However, until recently, the Administration said very little about tax credits for renewable energy, leaving the issue in the halls of Congress. But with strong bi-partisan support for wind in the Midwest, a more aggressive messaging strategy on the economic consequences of allowing the tax credit to expire could give the Administration an advantage. It seems to be just now grasping this.
David Roberts of Grist recently explained the significance:
Despite support from Iowa Republicans for wind (and despite that turbine photo-op), Mitt Romney has expressed only contempt for the industry. He would end federal support for solar and wind alike, technologies that, he has said, “make little sense for the consuming public but great sense only for the companies reaping profits from taxpayer subsidies.” (Y’know, like Iowa’s own TPI Composites, the 700 people it employs, and the town it saved.)
The fact is, if Republicans win Congress and Romney becomes president, all federal support for clean energy will dry up and Newton, along with other Midwestern towns that have been revitalized by wind, will suffer yet another devastating blow. I wonder if Iowa voters — sitting in one of 2012′s most important swing states — were thinking about that when Romney came to the state recently to lecture about the deficit.
Federal incentives for the industry has broad support from the public too. A recent poll showed that 64 percent of Americans support an extension of the production tax credit for wind and other renewable energy technologies.