AWEA spent $560,000 on lobbying in the first quarter of 2012, hiring such Republican firms as the Ashcroft Group and Fierce, Isakowitz & Blalock and such Democratic ones as Elmendorf Ryan and David Gardiner & Associates.
At the same time, Exelon, a Chicago-based utility that faces stiff competition from wind, is fighting to kill the tax credit. Exelon, which generates 55 percent of its electricity from nuclear power, has backed Obama’s efforts to limit carbon emissions and promote alternatives to fossil fuels.
Most U.S. wind turbines are in rural districts and states represented by Republican members of Congress.
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“We must define the nature and scope of this struggle, or else it will define us,” the president said.
In a statement, Exelon spokesman Marshall Murphy said that while the company has wind power in its portfolio, it supports an end to the tax credit because it “distorts today’s competitive wholesale electric markets, causing severe financial harm to other, more reliable clean energy sources.”
The Alliance for Wise Energy Decisions, a group of conservative activists opposed to new wind projects, has brought on George David Banks, a former aide to Sen. James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.), and worked with FreedomWorks to mobilize online opposition to the tax credit through Facebook and other means. Americans for Prosperity, a group financed in part by oil magnates David H. and Charles G. Koch, also is pushing to eliminate the tax break.
Banks said in an interview that with Republican-leaning areas traditionally benefiting financially from wind, the issue has created unconventional political alliances.
“Because it’s a wealth transfer from areas of the country that don’t have wind to ones which do have wind, and have renewable mandates, this issue is more of a state-specific issue than a partisan one,” he said.
Even if the tax credit is extended, it’s unclear whether the wind industry will rebound right away. A June Congressional Research Service report noted that there has been a rush to install wind before the tax benefit expires, and “all projections reviewed for this report expect annual U.S. wind turbine demand to be less than the existing turbine manufacturing capacity — approximately 13 [gigawatts] per year.”
Steven Mufson and Alice Crites contributed to this report.