Prior to last night’s debate — which focused heavily on energy policy in the early moments — Presidential candidate Mitt Romney touted his energy plan to Iowans when he recently visited there. Unfortunately, that plan, as President Obama highlighted last night, does not support the energy resource, wind, that is currently booming in the Hawkeye State.
The GOP candidate talks about rolling back regulations and new farm policies, as well as the importance of fossil fuels to our nation’s energy independence. But this energy plan falls on deaf ears in Iowa because the state is seeing a clean energy renaissance due to bipartisan support for its alternative energy industry. As the Daily Iowan points out, Romney’s energy plan actually hurts Iowa.
If Romney is elected, Iowa’s energy industry will face a two headed monster: loss of wind energy subsidies and a sharpened focus on the domestic and regional production of fossil fuels. All of the work done to grow Iowa’s energy infrastructure and outlook, by politicians of both parties including Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Republican Gov. Terry Branstad, will have essentially been for naught. It will drastically reduce any progress in the industry that currently creates nearly 3,000 jobs in Iowa:
In 2011, about one-fifth of Iowa’s electricity was generated by wind turbines, the state’s second largest source of electricity after coal. Currently, producers of wind energy receive a federal tax break of 2.2 cents for every kilowatt-hour of electricity generated. The tax break was implemented in order to mitigate some production costs to ensure that wind could compete with entrenched energy sources like oil and coal…
While the current regulatory environment favors the growth of Iowa’s alternative energy sector, Romney’s policies would reverse that trend. He would eliminate the wind-energy tax break but maintain federal subsidies for fossil fuels.
This is where Romney fails as a candidate. A Republican Governor is making the most of one of the President’s programs and it is leading to bipartisan success in a state looking to make the most of its resources. But candidate Romney needs funding for his campaign of blatant mistruths that folks like the Koch Brothers will only supply on certain terms. Thus, President Romney would be in debt to people who don’t support wind energy, so in advance of that terrifying outcome he’s holding hand to heart to recite verbatim ridiculousness such as the “evil dangers of wind energy.” This is the future under Mitt Romney. This is our future in a political process where billionaires have free reign.
The cutting of the Wind Energy would not just have adverse effects in Iowa. Nearly 37,000 workers would be laid off across the nation. Wind energy has been a rare bipartisan meeting ground in the past four years, but as we wrote in May, ALEC and Americans for Prosperity, launched a major PR campaign against wind energy. From an ALEC memo discussed in that article:
Among its main recommendations, the proposal calls for a national PR campaign aimed at causing “subversion in message of industry so that it effectively because so bad that no one wants to admit in public they are for it…”
And here we are, nearly in November, with the Republican candidate barnstorming the heartland, demonizing an industry that is bustling throughout the region and lying during televised debates. All in the name of Far Right, think tank ideology. Wind is not liberal or conservative, it’s the future. It’s effective. It’s necessary. It’s a policy that is adding jobs to Iowa’s rolls.
The rationale behind Romney’s opposition to subsidies for alternative energy is simple, at least from a political standpoint: Such programs have traditionally fallen under the purview of liberal energy policy. Romney has committed fully to the conservative notion that market forces should be the ultimate driver of economic behavior. On top of that, in this election cycle, stories of federal stimulus funds sent to companies like Solyndra, a now-failed solar-energy pioneer, are easy fodder for the conservative base.
In turning the future of alternative energy into a partisan issue, however, Romney is threatening one of the nation’s greatest bipartisan energy innovations right here in Iowa. Iowa’s wind sector is a testament to the universal appeal of an idea that works. To threaten the progress of clean, renewable energy on the basis of economic ideology or partisan pandering is unconscionable; it’s a disservice to Iowa and to the nation as a whole.
Now comes the true test for Romney. If he were truly a super genius job creator he would leave wind energy alone. But his true skill lies (no pun intended) in being a mouthpiece for his donors. We can only hope that we won’t have to find out (come 2013, 14, 15 and 16) what that kind of approach would lead to.