Tonight, Iowa hosts the last GOP presidential debate before the first caucuses on Jan. 3. A question going into the debate is how Mitt Romney will treat green jobs while he is in the Hawkeye state, given his past statement that green jobs are “illusory.”
Although Iowa leads in wind energy, investors remain uncertain about wind’s future growth, as the federal tax credit for renewable energy is set to expire after Dec. 31. Yesterday, at a Senate Finance subcommittee hearing, senators and business leaders convened to discuss the future of these clean energy tax credits. Even Sen. John Thune (R-SD) recognized at the hearing that “American businesses need greater certainty.”
The Iowa wind industry supports more than 2,300 jobs and a payroll of $70 million in the state. During a recent visit to a wind facility in West Branch, Iowa run by Acciona Windpower North America, the CEO Joe Baker discussed the job creation benefits to the area with the Center for American Progress:
Before we came to this facility, it had been abandoned. And West Branch, Iowa is a relatively small town. It’s close to Iowa City, where the University of Iowa is, but we were able to bring over 100 good-paying technical and professional jobs to the area, improving the economy in West Branch, specifically — a number of our employees live in West Branch and a number of our employees live in the Iowa City area as well.
The clean energy sector has provided some relief in a rough economy, averaging a growth rate of 8.3 percent between 2003–10, nearly double the growth rate of the overall economy. Yet that hasn’t stopped Romney from attacking this growing industry. Earlier in the campaign season, Romney attacked green jobs in an Orange County Register op-ed, calling them “illusory” jobs created in Finland, not the U.S. In addition to Iowa, he also ignores the reality of 64,000 clean energy jobs in his home state Massachusetts.