[Mitt Romney] mocks Obama's vision of a boom in employment, citing a European study to argue that new solar or wind-energy positions would destroy jobs elsewhere.
But when a campaign spokesman said last week that Congress should let a tax break for wind energy producers expire at the end of the year, some Republicans were concerned the candidate had gone too far.
Republican Rep. Tom Latham, R-Iowa, noting that nearly 7,000 Iowans work in the wind industry, assailed the Romney campaign for "a lack of full understanding of how important the wind energy tax credit is for Iowa and our nation." Iowa's senior senator, Chuck Grassley, told reporters he didn't believe Romney really opposed the extension, and he joined five other GOP lawmakers in voting for it in the Senate Finance Committee.
The Obama campaign quickly organized conference calls for reporters and circulated fact sheets showing the deep support the credit has in such swing-voting states as Iowa, Colorado and Nevada.
Obama will appear in Denver and western Colorado Wednesday to promote his economic plan, and the wind tax credit may well come up.
The backlash on the wind tax issue shows the risks Romney takes in targeting a fast-growing and popular industry that Obama has embraced. However, Romney's aides argue the campaign is just making a principled economic argument against excessive government interference in the marketplace — one that the conservative movement, which Romney has struggled to win over, has praised.
reporting on the man who released a single thousand page long tax return squeezing out every tax break imaginable from his situation; who nonetheless says he opposes excessive government interference, via tax credits -- i.e., wind baggery to where you wonder how he cannot understand why citizens doubt his core veracity.
He wants low tax rates for the rich, yet he does not want tax credits favoring responsible energy production. If Bain had been in the wind industry ten or fifteen years ago, it now would be dead by a thousand [job] cuts.
Here for detail, and here, the latter stating:
"He will allow the wind credit to expire, end the stimulus boondoggles, and create a level playing field on which all sources of energy can compete on their merits," Romney spokesman Shawn McCoy told the Register.
It's a stance that isn't surprising, given that Romney regularly mocks President Barack Obama's investments in green energy as a waste of time and money when the nation faces both an energy and fiscal crisis.
But McCoy's comments immediately caused a stir in Iowa, which is home to more wind energy jobs than any other state in the country. And it unsettled many of Romney's top supporters here, who publicly complained they had been caught off guard by his campaign's policy decision.
On Capitol Hill, Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley trashed the former Massachusetts governor's campaign for not talking to him first. "Nobody consulted us on this," Grassley told Roll Call.
Meanwhile, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad suggested in an interview with Radio Iowa's O. Kay Henderson that "a bunch of east coast people" were behind Romney's position. Like Grassley, Branstad said he wanted to speak to Romney directly so that he could be "educated" on wind energy, which he noted has strong bipartisan support in the state.
"I understand why they are very critical of the whole thing that was done by the Obama Administration with regard to the stimulus and some of the money that was wasted on Solyndra and some of these green energy projects didn't make sense," Branstad told Radio Iowa. "The tax credit, however, is a much different thing, and it way preceded Obama, and it was actually something that Sen. Grassley authored and has made a real difference over time."
But a week later, Romney has given no public indication he's rethinking his position. Asked if Romney's stance had changed amid concerns from Iowa Republicans, the campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
The issue has put some Iowa Republicans in an awkward spot.
Romney has a knack for finding that awkward spot, for himself, for others. And it is not "east coast people" writing Romney's scripts, it is the Koch brothers and western coal mining interests - the dirty fuel contingent, and not east coast folks.
The first of the two supplemental links given above adds:
Just how many layoffs could Iowa see if the tax credit expires at the end of 2012? Hard to predict, industry representatives said.
“I wish I could give you hard numbers, but the truth of the matter is we just don’t know,” said Harold Prior, director of the Iowa Wind Energy Association.
Some wind component manufacturers have bulked up on contracts outside the United States, so they would likely avoid significant layoffs, he said.
The wind tax credit goes to those who build and operate wind farms, not the manufacturers of wind equipment — but it would be the manufacturers who feel the pinch.
Iowa has five major manufacturers: Acciona in West Branch, Clipper in Cedar Rapids, Siemens in Fort Madison and TPI and Trinity in Newton. Together they employ around 2,300 people. Counting suppliers and other wind-related smaller businesses, the job count is 6,000 to 7,000, industry representatives said.
The uncertainty of the wind tax credit’s fate has already caused orders for turbine production for next year to drop steeply. When Congress delayed extension of the tax break twice in the past, wind projects faltered and workers were laid off. Clipper laid off 90 people in 2009 when projected orders for turbines fell from 450 to about 200.
However, existing wind farms in Iowa won’t generate any less energy if the tax credit dies. The existing 3,000 turbines wouldn’t be affected, so Iowa’s rank as second in the nation in wind-generating capacity likely wouldn’t change.
Nor would it hurt the company that has gained the most advantage from the tax break in Iowa — MidAmerican Energy, a subsidiary of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway. In preparation for the possible disappearance of the tax break, MidAmerican and other wind farm owners timed their projects so that they would be finished by the end of the year and eligible for the money.
[...] The wind production tax credit costs the federal government less than the combined tax subsidies for oil, coal and natural gas by a 4 to 1 margin, wind advocates said. They expect the industry to need at least another five years of support.
Meanwhile, the opening Business Week item further indicates:
But critics contend that Romney, who counts members of the fossil fuels industry as major financial supporters and relies on the head of an oil company as his energy adviser, has backed himself into a corner. "I think it's really a knee-jerk reaction to what this president has done," said Jeff Gohringer, a spokesman for the League of Conservation Voters. "He (Romney) is actually going to states and advocating cutting thousands of their jobs."
Surveys show the industry's popularity. A Gallup poll in March found Americans nearly twice as likely to favor wind and solar energy as coal or oil. The American Wind Energy Association released a poll last month showing that more than half of Iowa's voters say they would not back a presidential candidate who did not support expanding wind power. A January poll by Colorado College found that a majority of voters in six Western states believe that expanding renewable energy will create more jobs.
[...] During a May stop in Colorado, where the poll from Colorado College found two-thirds of residents believe renewable energy will create jobs, Romney mocked Obama for spending billions to create "green jobs." He asked the crowd: "Have you seen those jobs anywhere?"
The Romney campaign argues that what it calls "much-ballyhooed" wind and solar jobs may actually lessen the total number of jobs available because they replace positions in dirtier, but more labor-intensive industries. It cites a controversial Spanish study that found that every renewable energy job in that country destroyed 2.2 others.
"In place of real energy, Obama has focused on an imaginary world where government-subsidized windmills and solar panels could power the economy," Romney wrote in a March op-ed piece published in The Columbus Dispatch in Ohio. "This vision has failed."
The Obama campaign has been eager to respond, especially after an Iowa Romney campaign spokesman, Shawn McCoy, said last week that the candidate favored doing away with the wind tax credit.
"Mitt Romney would slash investments in clean energy, which would cede leadership of these critical sectors of our economy to competitors like China and India — and the jobs that go with them," the Obama campaign said in a statement, adding that the Republican has opposed ending tax breaks for the oil industry.
The American Wind Energy Association estimates that 37,000 jobs would be lost if the tax credit isn't extended this year. The credit was created in a 1992 energy bill signed by President George H.W. Bush and was renewed in a 2005 measure that passed a Republican Congress and was signed by President George W. Bush.