Mitt Romneys presidential campaign has been savaging what it calls President Barack Obamas unhealthy obsession with green jobs. The Republican challenger criticizes the government program that propped up solar manufacturer Solyndra, and he mocks Obamas vision of a boom in employment, citing a European study to argue that new solar or wind-energy positions would destroy jobs elsewhere.
But when a campaign spokesman said last week that Congress should let a tax break for wind energy producers expire at the end of the year, some Republicans were concerned the candidate had gone too far.
Republican Rep. Tom Latham, R-Iowa, noting that nearly 7,000 Iowans work in the wind industry, assailed the Romney campaign for a lack of full understanding of how important the wind energy tax credit is for Iowa and our nation. Iowas senior senator, Chuck Grassley, told reporters he didnt believe Romney really opposed the extension, and he joined five other GOP lawmakers in voting for it in the Senate Finance Committee.
The Obama campaign quickly organized conference calls for reporters and circulated fact sheets showing the deep support the credit has in such swing-voting states as Iowa, Colorado and Nevada.
The credit also helped fuel wind-energy development in Idaho, too. Boises Exergy Development Group opened a southern Idaho wind project in 2010 and announced plans last winter to open more wind parks by fall. Windmill parts on eastbound trucks have been a common sight lately on I-84 through the Treasure Valley.
Obama will appear Wednesday in Colorado to promote his economic plan, and the wind tax credit may come up.
The backlash on the wind tax issue shows the risks Romney takes in targeting a fast-growing and popular industry that Obama has embraced. However, Romneys aides argue the campaign is just making a principled economic argument against excessive government interference in the marketplace one that the conservative movement, which Romney has struggled to win over, has praised.
Indeed, Patrick Hedger, a researcher at FreedomWorks, a small-government group that is a prominent backer of the tea party movement, called Romneys position a happy surprise. He added that Republicans who feared a political cost from Romneys position were stuck in an outdated way of thinking. Weve got to get out of this cycle of buying votes with money we dont have, Hedger said.
But critics contend that Romney, who counts members of the fossil fuels industry as major financial supporters and relies on the head of an oil company as his energy adviser, has backed himself into a corner. I think its really a knee-jerk reaction to what this president has done, said Jeff Gohringer, a spokesman for the League of Conservation Voters. He (Romney) is actually going to states and advocating cutting thousands of their jobs.
Obama made green jobs a focus of his 2008 campaign, and he included tens of billions of dollars in incentives to promote energy efficiency and the renewable industry in federal stimulus efforts. After Solyndras bankruptcy last year, Republicans lined up to criticize the program that guaranteed the firms loans.
The American Wind Energy Association estimates that 37,000 jobs would be lost if the tax credit isnt extended this year. The credit was created in a 1992 energy bill signed by President George H.W. Bush and was renewed in a 2005 measure that passed a Republican Congress and was signed by President George W. Bush.
The Statesman contributed