Cohocton Wind Watch: Romney's wind stance blows through Capitol
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Monday, July 30, 2012

Romney's wind stance blows through Capitol

The news of Mitt Romney’s support for allowing wind energy tax credits to lapse at year’s end blew through Capitol Hill Monday, revealing a divide with some heartland Republicans.

Romney’s campaign confirmed Monday that the presumptive GOP White House nominee does not believe Congress should extend the production tax credit (PTC) beyond this year, bringing an end to uncertainty about whether he backs even a limited renewal.

That creates at least some political friction between Romney’s view and Republicans including Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and John Hoeven (R-N.D.), who both told reporters in the Capitol Monday that they don’t support simply cutting off the incentive that the wind industry calls vital.

“I am for reforming it,” Thune, the chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, said about the credit. “I have made it very clear that we need to look at phasing it out, but I just don’t do it overnight.” Thune has been mentioned as a dark horse candidate for vice-president.

Hoeven said he backs going to a “market-based approach” for wind, but indicated he does not support simply letting the credit end completely at year’s end, instead calling for a “phase out” that is paid for.

“I think it really does come down to what can we work out where you have it paid for and you can get enough support here to actually pass the legislation,” Hoeven, who is helping craft the GOP’s platform for next month’s national convention, said Monday. The credit, which has not lapsed since 2004, will expire at the end of the year unless Congress acts.

“I think we are going to a market-based approach, that is where it is going, the question is how do you get there. So there are some differences in how we get there, but I think we are going to end up ... in the same place,” he said.

Hoeven suggested that there’s a bright side to the differing views. “Maybe this will help bring us to some kind of agreement or compromise,” he said.

Wind has been a growth industry in several Midwest and Great Plains states, drawing support from both parties. Iowa Republican Rep. Tom Latham bashed the Romney campaign’s announcement that the former Massachusetts governor wants to end the credit.

“I’m disappointed that the statement by Governor Romney’s spokesperson shows a lack of full understanding of how important the wind energy tax credit is for Iowa and our nation. It’s the wrong decision. Wind energy represents one of the most innovative and exciting sectors of Iowa’s economy,” Latham said in a statement to The Des Moines Register.

President Obama, in a recent visit to Iowa and other forums, has been calling on Congress to extend the incentive. Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), an outspoken backer of credits the wind industry calls vital, said in a statement Monday that letting the credit lapse would be “irresponsible.”

“The PTC is the basis for good-paying, renewable energy jobs here at home. Not renewing the PTC would effectively out-source these jobs to China and our competitors abroad,” Udall said.

But a House GOP freshman who has been at the forefront of calls to end a range of energy subsidies applauded Romney’s position.

Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) said Romney’s opinion that the 2.2 cent per kilowatt-hour credit given to wind-energy producers should expire as scheduled on Dec. 31 was commendable.

“When the government bets on these energy technologies, it typically selects the most unaffordable energy leading to unnecessarily higher energy prices for all Americans,” Pompeo said in a statement. “Governor Romney is right to call for an end to these policies today, and I support his leadership and his decision wholeheartedly.”

Pompeo is the chief sponsor of the Energy Freedom and Economic Prosperity Act, which would eliminate a range of tax breaks for green power, biofuels and oil-and-gas, and offset the higher revenues with a commensurate cut in corporate tax rates.

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