President Barack Obama raised concerns about the future of wind power at a campaign event in Colorado, a state that has done well with wind energy. Over 6 percent of its power comes from wind and a Danish turbine maker recently built a manufacturing plant there.
But the industry is fragile and Obama played to that when he said, "At a moment when homegrown energy is creating new jobs in states like Colorado and Iowa, my opponent wants to end tax credits for wind producers."
Obama was referring to Renewable Energy Production Tax Credits. The president says Mitt Romney wants to get rid of them -- and the Romney campaign agrees.
A Romney spokesman, Ryan Williams, says when the tax credits expire at the end of this year, Romney has no plans to renew them.
"Wind energy will thrive wherever it is economically competitive," Williams said.
It's worth noting that Romney's position on the tax breaks for wind energy is a major issue within the wind power industry.
These tax credits have been part of American energy policy since 1992. For every kilowatt hour of power from wind, the government gives the producer a tax credit worth 2.2 cents. If the average price of electricity is around 8.5 cents, as it was in Colorado in 2010, then the tax break can make wind power more competitive.
The tax credit has come and gone over the years. Investment analyst, Aris Karcanias, managing consultant at Navigant BTM, says as the tax credit goes, so goes the wind industry.
"The Production Tax Credit remains the largest driver of industry growth in the United States," Karcanias said. "And uncertainty over its renewal has historically been accompanied by repeated ‘boom and bust’ cycles of growth."
The past few years have been one of the "boom" times. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimates that wind projects created at least 52,000 jobs between 2009 and 2011. The Congressional Research Service reports that the country will add a record 10 to 12 gigawatts of capacity by the end of 2012.
After the policy runs out, new construction is expected to plummet. But the congressional analysts don’t say that extending it would necessarily lead to an upswing. They say that competition from cheap natural gas and a limited rise in the demand for power will tend to put a damper on the industry regardless of federal tax policy.
Barack Obama said Mitt Romney plans to put an end to tax credits that benefit the wind power industry. Romney agrees.
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