—Mitt Romney (January 2012)
If you were a Republican running an election campaign to become President of the United States, your particular political ideology might mean you think global warming isn’t real, and that green energy is a bad idea and totally unnecessary in today’s economy. There’s also a chance you completely disagree with those concepts, but because you’re base of constituents and your lobbyist supporters disagree with them, you go along with them anyway. But the optimist in me hopes that presidential candidates speak true to their convictions.
So if you thought that wind energy was a joke and you didn’t want to continue supporting it in any way whatsoever once you became President, it would make sense that you’d want to end the wind production tax credit, scheduled to expire at the end of this year. This tax credit—a benefit of 2.2 cents per kilowatt-hour of electricity generated—will indeed end unless it’s extended. If it does expire, it will not only put an end to some energy that is greener than the fossil fuels Republicans seem so eager to support. It will also mean the loss of tens of thousands of manufacturing and construction jobs that are supported by the wind energy sector.
Now if you were a Republican running for President of the United States and that was your perspective, what you thought was best, then I think you should come out and make a definitive statement to that effect. Let the voters know exactly where you stand on the issue. If some Americans agree with you, you’ll likely get some of their votes from that stance. If others disagree with you, you might make it more likely they’ll vote for your opponent. But either way, people will clearly know where you stand on the issue.
Mitt Romney, the most likely candidate for the position of Republican running for President has hinted that he wants to end federal tax support for wind energy—along with other forms of green energy—but alas, he hasn’t made a crystal-clear statement to that effect. We certainly don’t yet know if he thinks it should expire at the end of the year as is currently the timeline for its fate, or if it should perhaps be phased out more slowly. (For the record, President Obama has made it very clear that he believes the tax credit should be extended indefinitely.)
In other words, Romney is taking the passive-aggressive approach to the issue. He doesn’t want to support extending the tax credit, but he doesn’t want to look like the outright villain and state that he wants it to expire when the year is up.
The reason this approach is passive-aggressive is because of the uncertainty associated with the lack of a decision on the issue. It means that developers are having a difficult time planning for the future beyond 2012. The effects are already being felt, and the website ThinkProgress has been reporting extensively on the losses that are being felt. In Pennsylvania, 165 workers at a turbine manufacturing-company lost their jobs. In Ohio, a $20 million dollar project was cancelled, losing up to 200 construction jobs in the process. In Arkansas, a $100 million wind turbine production facility has been stalled.
For companies that still plan to continue their business, one solution is to export their products to the many nations around the world that are expanding their own wind sectors. But many companies believe they’ll be about 18 months behind in production while waiting for Congress’s verdict of the tax credit extension.
As the American Wind Energy Association has demonstrated, wind energy has been good for the US. Since 2012, it has brought $20 billion in annual private investment and helped to support 75,000 jobs, making the US one of the most competitive countries in the world when it comes to the wind industry. If the tax credit isn’t extended at the end of the year, however, it will lead to an estimated 37,000 lost jobs in the following year.
What’s saddest of all when it comes to Mr. Romney and his attitude toward green energy is that he vehemently defends tax credits for the oil and gas industry. If he truly believed in good old-fashioned capitalism and free market enterprise, I would think he would pledge to support all industry equally and let the market sort out in the end which it thinks is best. But he clearly wants to maintain an advantage for the established fossil fuel industry, ignoring scientists all over the world who argue that renewable sources of energy need to be developed, and quickly.
If Mitt Romney is a real man true to his convictions, he should make it clear what he thinks about extending the tax credit, rather than using his passive-aggressive approach to slowly devastate an industry without ever having to take the blame once the damage is done.
I hope American voters will see who has spoken more truly about his convictions come November and re-elect the man with a vision about where the US needs to be in the 21st century, rather than the one who believes so strongly in business-as-usual, but doesn’t even have the guts to make that clear to the voters.