But Obama has seized on the issue in the campaign, telling an audience in Council Bluffs, Iowa, on Aug. 13 that “without these wind energy tax credits, a whole lot of these jobs would be at risk.”
Romney’s position also has caused friction with some other Republicans: 81 percent of wind power is generated in congressional districts represented by Republicans, according to AWEA. In an interview with Radio Iowa, the state’s governor, Terry Branstad, a Republican, called Romney’s aides a “bunch of East Coast people that need to get out here in the real world to find out what’s really going on.”
The wind tax credit allows project developers or investors to reduce their tax payments by 2.2 cents for every kilowatt-hour of power generated over the first 10 years of a project’s life. That works out to about a third of the cost of an average project, though the cost per kilowatt varies widely, depending on location.
The tax credit has helped the industry expand rapidly. In the past five years, wind has made up 35 percent of new installed capacity in the United States, and more than 60 percent of the industry’s equipment is made domestically. But wind power still accounts for just 3 percent of the nation’s overall electricity, and low natural gas prices have undercut wind in some markets.
Testifying before the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on energy and power this month, John Purcell, vice president for wind energy at Leeco Steel, said that while the wind industry has made tremendous gains, “we don’t feel like we’ve finished the job.”
“From my perspective as a steel guy, I am watching my customers laying off people all over the country, and I won’t be providing steel plates to any of them anymore,” he said.
That argument has gained some traction on Capitol Hill: Last month, the Senate Finance Committee passed a one-year extension of the tax credit, on a bipartisan vote of 19 to 5. Since the issue is likely to be resolved one way or another once Congress reconvenes in a lame-duck session after the November elections, both sides are launching major lobbying aimed at swaying House members.
AWEA has worked assiduously to court congressional Republicans, according to an internal board document the trade group prepared in November 2011 . The plan included a lobbying program focused specifically on getting House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to back the tax credit extension; in conjunction with Republican Hill staffers, developing a slogan based on focus groups; and co-sponsoring a series of events featuring GOP leaders with the news outlet Politico.