Obama touts wind credit in Iowa

Source: By Alex Guillen, Politico • Posted: Friday, May 25, 2012

President Barack Obama used a visit to Iowa, the state with the most wind jobs, to push Congress on federal support for wind manufacturers Thursday — but not without blowback from critics who argue the measure is too expensive.

The wind production tax credit, which expires at the end of this year, must be extended by Congress to save jobs, Obama said after touring TPI Composites, a blade manufacturer in Newton, Iowa.

“These companies that are putting in orders for these amazing blades, they’re making plans now. They’re making decisions now,” Obama said. “So if they’re cutting back on their orders, if they’re not confident that the industry’s going to be moving at a fast clip and they start reducing orders here, that affects you. You can’t wait for six months, you can’t wait for eight months, you can’t wait for a year to get this done. It’s got to be done now.”

Besides recent growth in the industry as a whole, more of the thousands of parts that go into wind turbines are being made in the United States than just a few years ago, the president said.

“We used to have just a few dozen manufacturing facilities attached to the wind industry,” Obama said. “Today we have nearly 500 facilities in 43 states employing tens of thousands of American workers.”

Obama also credited the PTC as part of a larger energy policy that has seen renewable energy nearly double in the last three years, biofuels and natural gas producing at record levels and a lower ratio of imported oil.

“This country’s on the path to more energy independence, and that’s good for everybody. It’s good for people’s pocketbooks, it’s good for the environment, it’s good for our national security,” he said. “And the best thing is, in the process, we’re also putting thousands of Americans back to work, because the more we rely on American energy, the less oil we buy from other countries, the more jobs we create here at home.”

The PTC push is part of the president’s five point “to-do” list for Congress, which also includes small business tax breaks and jobs for veterans.

Obama lauded Newton as an example of a town diving headfirst into clean tech manufacturing. Newton, formerly an appliance manufacturing center for brands like Maytag, now employs around 1,000 people in wind — 700 of them at TPI’s facility. Iowa is home to between 6,000 and 7,000 wind jobs.

But earlier this week, electronics manufacturer Schneider Electric announced plans to cut 80 of 375 positions at its Cedar Rapids, Iowa, facility.

Obama’s pitch also comes the same day The New York Times ran a front page story on the president’s support for oil drilling in the Arctic, disappointing many environmentalists.

Republicans and wind power critics quickly hit Obama’s support of the PTC as too expensive.

Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.), who is working to repeal the PTC and other energy tax subsidies, pointed to a recent attempt to extend the PTC — alongside several other clean energy and energy efficiency provisions — that failed in the Democrat-controlled Senate.

“Especially given our debt situation, the government has no business picking winners and losers — in the energy markets or any other — using taxpayer dollars,” Pompeo said in a statement. “I am confident that wind can survive without a government handout.”

In a letter to members of Congress, American Energy Alliance President Thomas Pyle wrote that “decades of clamoring for subsidies and cash handouts by wind power proponents have done nothing to mature the industry into a viable competitor in a free energy market