McCain’s ‘Hypocritical’ Wind Power Photo-Op

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) is poised to make a major speech on global warming today at the North American headquarters of the Danish wind-turbine company Vestas. In the speech, McCain takes steps to rhetorically distance himself from President Bush’s shameful record of inaction on global warming:

I will not permit eight long years to pass without serious action on serious challenges.

Center for American Progress Senior Fellow Joe Romm notes that McCain has chosen a “clever, but ultimately hypocritical location” for his address, because “conservatives including John McCain, are the main reason McCain has to go to a Danish wind turbine manufacturer to give a climate speech.”

Last year, Sen. McCain told Grist, “The wind industry is doing fine.” In fact, the United States was the market leader in wind technology — following government investments decades ago under President Carter. In the past 26 years that McCain has been in Congress, Romm explains, conservatives “repeatedly gutted the wind budget, then opposed efforts by progressives to increase it, and repeatedly blocked efforts to extend the wind power tax credit.” Now the United States is a bit player in the $36 billion global market.


In these past “eight long years” alone, McCain has worked with other conservatives to kill federal renewable electricity standards and renewable energy production tax credits. Here are some of the lowlights:

McCain Opposes Renewable Electricity Standards. A renewable electricity standard would require utilities to generate a certain portion of their electricity from wind, solar, geothermal, and other renewable energy sources. Twenty six states, including Arizona, have such requirements. The passage of a renewable energy standard in Colorado in 2004 was a key incentive for Vestas in siting its new wind turbine plant in that state. Sen. McCain voted against renewable electricity every time:

2002 (Vote 50): Voted against 20 percent requirement. — 2002 (Vote 55): Voted to gut 10 percent requirement. — 2002 (Vote 59): Voted to gut 10 percent requirement. — 2005 (Vote 141): Voted against a renewable portfolio standard. — 2005 (Vote 363): Cast deciding vote to cut rural Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency program funding rom $23 million to $3 million.

McCain Opposes Renewable Production Tax Credits. The renewable electricity production tax credit has been key to the growth of the domestic wind industry by supporting power companies, businesses, and individuals who employ wind, geothermal, solar, and other types of renewable electricity. However, the tax credit has been allowed to expire three times in the past decade — in 2004, McCain introduced an amendment that would have eliminated the tax credit entirely. McCain’s continued opposition to the tax credit is putting the wind industry at risk again:

March 2006 (Vote 42): Voted against extension of tax credits. — March 2007 (Vote 98): Skipped vote to extend tax credits. — June 2007 (Vote 223): Skipped vote to extend tax credits. — December 2007 (Vote 416): Skipped vote to extend tax credits — extension failed by one vote. — February 2008 (Vote 8): Skipped vote to extend tax credits — extension failed by one vote.

A report from the Union of Concerned Scientists shows how this failure of conservative priorities — from Bush and McCain — “contributes to a boom-bust cycle of development that plagues the wind industry.”


UPDATE: In 2003, Vestas cancelled plans to construct a wind turbine plant in Portland, Oregon and laid off 500 employees because of the uncertainty surrounding the production tax credit.