Obama puts wind credit on his congressional ‘To Do List’

Source: Emily Yehle, E&E reporter • Posted: Wednesday, May 9, 2012

President Obama will call on Congress today to extend a crucial tax credit for the wind industry, as part of a broader “To Do List” that will provide the foundation for Obama’s message on job creation in the coming months.

The list — which Obama officially will unveil today in a speech at 1:25 p.m. — consists of five actions that the White House contends “will create jobs and help restore middle class security.” None of the proposals are new, but they come as Republicans and the White House spar over job creation during an election year.

Obama has repeatedly pushed Congress to extend the production tax credit (PTC), which grants companies that produce electricity from wind, solar, geothermal and certain plants a 2.2-cent-per-kilowatt-hour subsidy. The credit expires at the end of this year, and the wind industry has lobbied Congress for months to extend it soon to ensure companies plan investments for 2013.

It is unclear how the inclusion of the production tax credit in Obama’s election-year list will affect what has so far been a somewhat bipartisan effort to pass an extension. Despite some Republican support, an extension has failed to get enough momentum to move far — and there are few must-pass bills left this Congress that could be used as a vehicle. Lawmakers have discussed including it in a tax extenders package expected to be taken up during a post-election lame-duck session.

But in an interview today, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said he was glad Obama was coming out in support and was not worried it would make an extension more difficult because of reflexive GOP opposition to an election-year demand.

“From my standpoint, this thing’s gotta be done,” he said. “The more support you get, the better.”

In a statement this morning, Rep. Dave Reichert (R-Wash.) — a steadfast supporter of the extension — also characterized the tax credit as a bright spot in Obama’s proposal.

“Unlike some of the ‘to do’ items that are about playing election year politics, the PTC extension is a genuinely bipartisan issue and a proven job creator,” said Reichert, who has co-sponsored a bill with Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) that would extend the credit through 2016.

Extending the credit is one of several business tax cuts on Obama’s “To Do List.” The top item calls on Congress to create a new 20 percent tax credit for companies that move their operations back to the United States; it would be paid for with the savings from repealing tax incentives that allow companies to deduct the costs of moving abroad.

The proposal also calls for the “expansion” of the Advanced Energy Manufacturing Tax Credit, which provides a 30 percent investment tax credit for manufacturing equipment for renewable energy projects, batteries, electric cars, energy conservation technologies or technologies that capture and store carbon dioxide. That credit — created through a stimulus program — also expires at the end of this year.

The American Wind Energy Association — which has lobbied hard for an extension — declined to comment directly on how Obama’s proposal would affect its efforts. But it emphasized that the production tax credit has “bipartisan” support and “is critical in continuing that success story and keeping 75,000 Americans hard at work.”

In a press briefing yesterday, White House spokesman Jay Carney compared Obama’s job creation proposals to what he called Obama’s “firm decision to fight” for the payroll tax holiday extension that passed Congress earlier this year.

“I think that, as you know, every member of the House is up for election this year and a third of the Senate, and each of those members who are running for re-election has to explain to his or her constituents what they did while they were in Washington these last two years,” Carney said. “Did they just say no? Did they just block every effort put forward to help the economy grow and create jobs? Or did they actually try to work constructively to get something done?”