An ill wind may be blowing — for wind energy

This is the windy season and not merely because it’s time for summer storms. The wind in question is political and it concerns wind energy and the fight over whether the wind energy industry should keep its subsidies from the federal government.

Wind energy has become a big deal in both Iowa and Minnesota, with wind farms sprouting in areas of both states. These farms operate with equipment manufactured in the Midwest and they operate successfully because the fledgling alternative energy industry receives federal subsidies to help create jobs and to build the industry itself, own that has become important in both states.

The political part of it comes from two distinct views by presidential candidates regarding wind energy. President Obama, the Democrat, has long been an advocate of alternative fuels and has supported the wind energy subsidies. Meanwhile, Republican presidential challenger, Mitt Romney, has said he would end wind energy credits and concentrate on nurturing fossil fuels and companies.

Romney rolled out his energy plan recently and it makes clear that his administration would support growth in the fossil fuels development and use, while allowing fledgling alterative industries, such as wind, to sink or swim in the marketplace.

For his part, Obama has indicated he would offer a more well-rounded energy program, one that includes fossil fuels, but also highlights alternative fuels and energy sources, using federal subsidies where necessary. He has strongly supported the keeping of the present wind energy credits.

Interestingly, Romney’s stance on wind energy (doesn’t support it) and alternative fuels in general, has caused consternation among fellow Republicans, particularly in Midwestern states that have made major investments in wind farms and the jobs they bring in. It has resulted in a strange bedfellows situation in which Republican lawmakers and governors are supporting Obama on wind energy and threatening to hedge support for Romney’s campaign.

Meanwhile, in Minnesota, investors are continuing to gather data to lead toward a wind farm in Dawson County that would cover 20,000 acres. The developers say that even if wind energy subsidies are lost at the end of this year, they believe the industry will continue to grow.

However, in Texas, where wind power has been gaining popularity in recent years, the worry is that the boom will go bust of subsidies are discontinued. The disagreement between Obama and Romney is in stark contrast in West Texas where projects may be lost. Wind proponent Greg Wortham, mayor of Sweetwater told The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, “It’s almost like if our own Congress wasn’t in our way, this would be a danged good economy.”

What is Romney’s problem with wind energy subsidies? It may be the cost. The tax credit gives wind farm owners 2.2 cents for every kilowatt-hour they produce—for 10 years. The subsidy makes wind energy far more competitive than it would be and it costs the federal government about $1.3 billion a year.

Bipartisan support for wind credits is based on the notion that the industry, as it grows, creates jobs in the rural states, and fosters renewal of manufacturing in American cities, using American workers and technology.

Romney seems to believe all-out, lavish support for the fossil fuels industries will make North America energy independent in 20 years. It sounds good, but what will happen to the environment and the rural jobs lost in alternative energy industries.

It will be an interesting election come November.

I’ll see ya.


An Iowa native, Peter Graham has been a rural newspaper editor for 40 years. He currently edits a twice-weekly paper in Western Iowa. You can contact him at (712) 642-2791 or [email protected]