Push candidates towards Iowa wind incentives


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With still more than two months left until Election Day, the great mud fight for the presidency is barreling through such swing states as Ohio, Nevada, and, of course, Iowa, turning high-school gyms into bully pulpits and sullying prime-time television with partisan agitprop. President Obama and GOP challenger Mitt Romney have both spent time in Iowa in recent weeks, with the president scheduled to return for an event at Iowa State University Tuesday.

A return to Iowa for Obama almost certainly means a return to what has become one of his favorite regional talking points: extending federal tax breaks for producers of wind energy. As it stands, the federal government provides a 2.2 cent tax break per kilowatt hour generated to wind-energy producers. The incentive, which is extremely popular in Iowa, is due to expire at the end of this year.

The presumptive Republican candidate, former Gov. Romney, has expressed his disapproval of federal subsidies for wind energy, citing the tax break as an unnecessary intervention in the marketplace.

Romney’s official energy policy, as stated on his official website, cites “the failure of windmills and solar plants to become economically viable or make a significant contribution to our energy supply” as an example of why the government should not seek to subsidize pet industries.

The impact of wind energy on Iowa suggests, however, that Romney’s dismissal of wind energy tax credits may have been premature. A 2010 study by the Iowa Policy Project noted that Iowa has the second largest wind-energy production capacity in the nation and that 20 percent of Iowa’s energy comes from wind. The wind-energy sector also employs approximately 3,000 full-time workers in Iowa.

In our state, where wind enjoys bipartisan support, Romney’s energy policy may become a political albatross. A July survey of Iowans conducted by Public Opinion Strategies for the American Wind Energy Association found that 85 percent of Iowans, including 75 percent of those who identified themselves as Republicans, think that wind energy has been good for the state’s economy.

Iowa Republicans Gov. Terry Branstad and Sen. Chuck Grassley have both voiced their support for wind power and for the federal tax breaks that make wind energy economically viable.

“Tax incentives to level the playing field for renewable resources have helped grow wind energy from almost nonexistent to the success story of today,” Grassley wrote in a guest opinion run in The Daily Iowan in December 2011.

As is typically the case in primary season, Iowa carries outsized political clout in this year’s general election. Despite having only six electoral votes (just over 1 percent of the 538 total electoral votes), Iowa is one of only seven of swing states in which necessary electoral votes are up for grabs, according to an Associated Press analysis. As such, we have the opportunity to collectively put some pressure on the candidates and advance our Iowan agenda.

Iowans should unite around our bipartisan support for alternative energy and make it clear to both Obama and Romney, as they make their final attempts to woo us, that neither man will take our electoral votes without explicit support for the extension of the wind-energy tax credit.

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