By The Gazette Editorial Board
Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, rightly focused on the economy and how to help the middle class reverse its financial decline when he visited Iowa last week. Those are the biggest issues on most voters’ minds.
But we were disappointed that Romney didn’t talk about another issue important to Iowans, not to mention other states: wind energy.
Romney opposes an extension of the federal wind energy tax credit when it expires this year. That stand is at odds with the entire Iowa congressional delegation, including Reps. Tom Latham and Steve King and Sen. Chuck Grassley, all Republicans, as well as Republican Gov. Terry Branstad, who says Romney just needs a little more education on the topic. “I can understand why he objects to Solyndra and all the boondoggles (President) Obama has supported with the stimulus, but remember, the wind energy tax credit (was proposed) by Sen. Grassley and way preceded Obama. It’s a tool that’s helped us grow this energy … ” Branstad told a Los Angeles Times reporter.
We agree with the governor. The tax credit has helped our state become the nation’s No. 2 producer of wind energy — providing 20 percent of our electric power. The industry includes several plants that produce wind turbines or components. Nearly 3,000 turbines spin statewide. And the industry provides more than 6,000 good jobs for Iowans, according to the Iowa Wind Energy Association. Landowners who lease land for the turbines receive more than
$14 million a year.
Extending the wind energy tax credit — which lowers, not eliminates, a company’s tax — for one year would cost $3.3 billion. That’s considerably less than the subsidies the fossil fuel industries continue to receive, although a fair comparison is difficult to make.
That said, we don’t think this credit, like many others, should live forever. Its purpose should be to give a promising new energy industry a chance to demonstrate its viability as well as economic and environmental benefits — not be a lifetime subsidy guarantee.
However, the industry is still relatively young. Questions about its efficiency are not fully answered. The nation’s electric grid needs upgrading, in part to fully accommodate wind power. Meanwhile, major technology improvements on the horizon could substantially reduce the cost of wind-power generation.
It’s just too soon to pull the tax credit for wind power. Give the industry more time to prove itself.
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