October 23, 2014

Branstad says Romney “needs to be educated” about importance of wind energy (audio)

Iowa’s Republican governor blames “a bunch of east coast people” on Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s campaign for getting Romney to oppose federal tax breaks for the wind energy industry. 

During a brief interview with Radio Iowa earlier today, Governor Terry Branstad said he wants to talk directly with Romney about the value of the wind energy production tax credit. The credit is set to expire at the end of the year.

“It needs to be continued, not forever, but it does need to be continued for a while and the result is it’s been a very good thing for Iowa in terms of 20 percent of our energy is now generated by wind,” Branstad said. “We have a lot of farmers that receive rent from having wind turbines on their property and we have a lot of jobs associated with it.”

About 7000 Iowans work in the wind energy industry. More than 200 companies in Iowa are involved in manufacturing the blades, towers and engine parts and in maintaining the nearly 3000 wind turbines that are operating in Iowa today.

Branstad blamed “confusion” in the Romney campaign for Romney’s stand against the tax break for wind energy production. The Romney campaign is running a TV ad in Iowa which suggests part of the 2009 economic stimulus package sent taxpayer dollars to “windmills from China.”

“I understand why they are very critical of the whole thing that was done by the Obama Administration with regard to the stimulus and some of the money that was wasted on Solyndra and some of these green energy projects didn’t make sense,” Branstad said. “The tax credit, however, is a much different thing and it way proceeded Obama and it was actually something that Senator Grassley authored and has made a real difference over time.”

Senator Chuck Grassley, a Republican, said earlier this week it’s “not right to single out one energy incentive over others before a broader tax reform debate.”  

The Romney campaign website lumps “windmills” in with solar power as examples of the “failure” of green energy projects to make a profit or “make a significant contribution” to the country’s energy supply. That wording — particularly the reference to “windmills” rather than wind turbines — angers Branstad.

“They don’t understand,” Branstad said. “You’ve got a bunch of people that have put that website together that are bunch of east coast people that need to get out here in the real world to find out what’s really going on.”

According to the American Wind Energy Association, there are currently 2925 wind turbines operating in Iowa, with another 280 turbines under construction. Executives in the industry say up to 3000 Iowans may lose their jobs if the wind production tax credit is not extended.

Radio Iowa first asked Branstad if he hoped to talk directly with Romney about this issue and Branstad said: “He needs to be educated as to how important this is.”

AUDIO of brief Radio Iowa interview with Branstad.

Romney’s campaign has not responded to Radio Iowa’s request for comment on Branstad’s remarks.