It's telling that one of the fastest-growing fractures in a political party known for its ideological unity is being caused by wind power. Mitt Romney recently said that he'd let the industry's production tax credit expire at the end of the year—a policy position that, on its face, squares well with the small government-questing GOP of the day—but a handful of conservatives balked.
The reason is straightforward: a number of red and purple states are home to economies that have benefitted tremendously from the tax credits, which have stimulated job growth in recessionary times. Iowa, Texas, and Kansas come to mind. In fact, Iowa Republicans are among those raising the sharpest opposition to Romney's position.Iowa's Ames Tribune notes that
U.S. Rep. Tom Latham, an Iowa Republican, responded by saying, “It’s the wrong decision. Wind energy represents one of the most innovative and exciting sectors of Iowa’s economy.”Grassley's right. It's absurd to single wind (and solar) out as deserving of the ax, especially when some of the most mature industries in the world (oil, coal) continue to receive robust federal handouts. And now that it's easy to draw a line between the tax credits and thousands of well-paying jobs, it's even harder for politicians to make the case for gutting support for a young but fast-growing industry.
U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, who wrote the original wind energy tax credit legislation, reportedly threatened his fellow Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee that he’d join with the Democrats in voting to keep the credits. Some Republicans on the committee had tried to remove the wind energy tax credit from a package of tax breaks under consideration.
“It’s not right to single out one energy incentive over the others before a broader tax reform debate,” Grassley said in a statement Wednesday.
All this means that we may well be on the threshold of watching wind power pass the tipping point into fully, totally nonpartisan territory—especially if Congress preserves the PTC, I wouldn't be surprised if Americans come to regard the wind industry as neutrally as they do, I dunno, the microchip industry.