Romney's Folly: Ending Tax Breaks for Wind Power

Gage Skidmore via Flickr/CC BY 2.0

You'd be hard-pressed to name a single American energy source that doesn't benefit from government support. Coal companies get subsidies. Nuclear power plants are backed by massive loan guarantees. Oil companies, even the most profitable ones in the world, get truly impressive federal handouts. And, of course, wind and solar companies get tax credits.

But presidential candidate Mitt Romney opposes just one of the incentives listed above; want to venture a guess as to which one it is? It's tax breaks for wind power, obviously! The only subsidy that's doing what a subsidy is supposed to do—encourage investment in something we want more of. Few Americas would say, 'yes, I'd like more of my tax dollars to support the coal industry.'

This matters, because at the moment the production tax credit (PTC) for wind power is under existential threat. Large swaths of the GOP want to do away with it, because it represents freedom-strangling government bloat or something, even though the net worth of the entire tax break comes out to, like, a single cruise missile, and has helped create thousands of jobs in states like Iowa, Texas, Kansas, and California. Republican congressmen in those states support upholding the credit, where it's popular and proven job-creator.

Yet Romney has officially sided with the more conservative elements of his base, according to the Guardian: Shawn McCoy, a spokesman for Romney's Iowa campaign, told the Des Moines Register earlier this week that Romney would "allow the wind credit to expire, end the stimulus boondoggles, and create a level playing field on which all sources of energy can compete on their merits".

Which is interesting, because just a few months ago, when Democratic senators moved to end handouts to big oil, he stayed silent on that field-leveling move, and even hinted he'd continue to prop them up.

No, Romney has made a political calculation here; he thinks that it will win him some Tea Party bona fides if he sticks it to wind. But he's already encountered some conservative opposition in places like Colorado, Iowa, and Pennsylvania—swing states where every move makes a difference.

Tags: Mitt Romney