Wind energy could go a long way in determining who wins this year's Presidential election.
A key incentive for the wind industry -- a federal production tax credit (PTC) which wind farms can use for 10 years -- is set to expire at the end of 2012. Romney opposes renewing the incentive, while Obama believes the PTC is critical piece to revitalizing the country's economy and energy resources.
At $1.4 billion per year, the PTC is no small disbursement. However, it has been the key driver of the growth of wind power in major wind states such as Texas, Iowa, California, and Colorado.
In Iowa, nearly 20% of the state's power comes from wind energy. Meanwhile, towns such as Alta, population of 1,800, have seen an economic re-birth thanks to the industry. Farmers can earn as much as $14 million a year in leas payments for wind farms on their land. Across the country, in 2011, wind farm instalments represented $14 billion in new investment.
The last time the PTC was not renewed, in 2004, wind farm development dropped 77%. The industry is already feeling the effects as projects are being halted and jobs lost as a result of uncertainty around the PTC.
Clipper Windpower has laid off 174 employees, in part to the slowdown in orders because of the pending expiration of the incentive. Ditiev Engel, CEO of the world's largest manufacturer of wind turbines, Vestas Wind Systems, predicts the U.S. wind turbine market could drop 80% next year without the PTC. The renewable energy industry estimates 37,000 jobs could be lost if the wind tax incentive is not renewed; as many as 3,000 of those pink slips could be handed out in Iowa.
This has caused Iowans, such as Rob Hach a staunch Republican and owner of a company operating in the wind industry, to consider the Presidential candidates' energy policies when placing their votes. Hach, for one will be crossing party lines this time around and supporting Barack Obama as result of his energy policy. "This is about jobs. It menas tax dollars for schools. It means revitalization for rural America. I'm doing everything I can to elect Obama," he says.
Iowa is a swing state in this election; and, President Obama is doing everything he can to win voters like Hach in crucial swing states. Attacking Mitt Romney's energy policy seems to be a key campaign strategy. The President just launched a radio ad in Colorado lambasting Romney for wanting to eliminate the PTC. 5,000 people are currently employed by the wind industry in Colorado.
Image credit: Jim Hammer via Flickr
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