An Obama administration official will travel to Iowa this week, highlighting the political drama over a federal tax break that has benefitted the wind energy industry. David Sandalow is the acting U.S. Under Secretary of Energy and he’ll visit a plant in West Branch that assembles wind turbines.
“There’s been a tax credit, a way to cut taxes for wind power over the course of the past couple of years that’s made a big difference for this industry. It’s called the production tax credit,” Sandalow says. “That is set to expire at the end of this year and President Obama has called for an extension of that tax credit, wants to make sure that wind power providers can continue to pay less taxes.”
Proposals to extend that tax credit have languished in congress. Republican critics of the production tax credit for wind power say the government shouldn’t use tax breaks to prop up renewable energy technology that can’t make a profit on its own. The Obama administration official who’s coming to Iowa is reluctant to talk directly about the political debate.
“You know what I’m going to be talking about out in Iowa is just the fundamentals of this, so people know the facts, and then other people can handle some of the particular legislative tactics,” Sandalow says. “That’s really not my job.”
Sandalow says up to 7000 Iowans have jobs connected to the wind power industry.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has a statement posted on his campaign website that argues the “failure of windmills…to become economically viable” is an example of Obama’s failed approach to managing the economy. Republicans have also suggested Obama administration investments in so-called “green” energy companies have been akin to “crony capitalism” and federal money has gone to overseas corporations that are building wind farms in the U.S.
Executives in Iowa’s wind turbine industry say orders are drying up due to the uncertainty about the federal tax credit. Iowa’s congressional delegation — Democrats and Republicans — all support extending the production tax credit for wind energy and Republican Governor Terry Branstad supports a limited extension.
Sandalow — the acting Under Secretary of Energy — will also visit a Des Moines plant that makes electric power control panels during his trip to Iowa later this week