At the conclusion of the 2012 presidential election, Barack Obama's campaign manager, Jim Messina, said of the president's victories in Iowa and Colorado that the "wind energy tax credit was an issue in both of those states." With President Obama supporting the tax credit and Mitt Romney not only opposing the wind production tax credit (PTC) but dismissing wind energy jobs as "imaginary," Messina believed that wind energy had been a wedge issue for voters in these critically important swing states, a factor in Obama's victory.
Wind energy will again be a wedge issue in these political and clean energy powerhouse states in 2016. In Iowa, wind energy now exceeds 25 percent of total electricity production, according to the American Wind Energy Association. According to the Iowa Wind Energy Association, more than $9.8 billion of capital has been invested in Iowa's wind farms and manufacturing facilities. Furthermore, Iowa currently ranks third for wind energy employment, supporting 6,000 to 7,000 jobs. With Iowa also serving as the first state to hold primary caucuses, the state's wind energy industry could prove to be a factor in choosing the major parties' eventual nominees.
The wind PTC, a performance-based incentive, has helped the U.S. wind industry build more than 550 facilities and contributed to the price of wind power declining by 43 percent in recent years. A recent study from the Department of Energy found that wind power could grow from supplying 5 percent of U.S. electricity, as it does today, to supplying 35 percent by 2050. President Obama has called for a permanent extension of the PTC to make that clean energy future happen.
Despite the PTC's success, many in the Republican field seem content to repeat Romney's mistake of opposing clean energy and advocating to abolish the PTC -- either immediately or in the near future. Here's a rundown of where the current field of likely candidates stands on the issue.
Jeb Bush: This month in Iowa, Bush called for a short-term extension of the wind energy production tax credit (PTC), followed by a three- to five-year phaseout.
Chris Christie: As the governor of New Jersey, Christie signed into law incentives for offshore wind energy, including tax incentives. Christie reportedly "hasn't clarified" his position on the federal PTC. Encouragingly, the Wall Street Journal reports that he "wouldn't repudiate the wind tax credit."
Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio: The trio of senators oppose extending the PTC. Most recently, Cruz and Paul voted against a nonbinding Sense of the Senate resolution on the topic. Rubio missed the vote.
Mike Huckabee: The former Arkansas governor has "danced around whether or not he supported the wind energy tax credit...," saying, "I think it needs to be debated," and adding that no government programs should be given "unquestionable life."
Rick Perry: While Perry's home state of Texas is home to huge amounts of wind power, Perry "sounded somewhat contrite for supporting the wind tax credit" and opposes federal incentives.
Rick Santorum: When campaigning during the 2011 primary, Santorum called for a phaseout of all tax incentives for energy.
Scott Walker: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker described the PTC as having "served the purpose." He continued that he "would support phasing that out over a period of time."
To win in 2016, the party's leaders should recognize what regular people already know. Polling finds overwhelming support for the wind PTC: 73 percent of registered voters support continuing the PTC, including 63 percent of registered Republicans. It's time for the Republican presidential field to see that swing state voters want their energy clean, and they want it made at home. A climate denier can't win in 2016 -- and neither can a clean energy naysayer.