Wind-power advocates fear Romney will slow Iowa’s energy industry

Advocates for Iowa's growing wind-power industry are warning Mitt Romney that his opposition to extending the wind production tax credit (PTC) will cost its state jobs if he gets elected.

The issue poses a dilemma for the presumptive GOP nominee, who hopes to carry the swing state in November.

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Romney wants to get rid of the PTC, which pays wind-power producers 2.2 cents per kilowatt-hour. It is set to expire at the end of this year, though Romney staffers have not indicated whether he would let it end then or extend it for a little longer.

A surrogate for Romney said last week that the candidate believes the credit has “probably outlived its usefulness,” but is still deciding how quickly it should be phased out, suggesting that Romney is open to a limited extension of the expiring incentive.

“It’s really going to slow down the expansion of wind energy,” said Iowa Wind Energy Association executive director Harold Prior, according to the Des Moines Register. "This could mean the loss of several thousand jobs in the industry.”

According to reports, GOP Gov. Terry Branstad supports a temporary extension of the tax credit, as do some congressional Republican lawmakers, raising the stakes for Romney.

The Obama administration has been vocal about extending the PTC. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar earlier this month said wind firms have had to lay off workers with the PTC in limbo. Energy Secretary Steven Chu called on Congress to extend the PTC during a stop in Wisconsin last week, saying the uncertainty surrounding the PTC has cost people jobs.

The Iowa wind-energy industry employs about 7,000 people, the Register said.

The Iowans who benefit from the PTC make components and parts for wind turbines and do not directly receive the PTC, the Register said. But the PTC’s uncertain future has dampened demand for those parts, it said.

“The uncertainty prevents the investors from committing resources to new wind farms and really creates about an 18-month gap, even if the production tax credit is renewed. Our association has had some companies that have gone out of business because of the uncertainty. They don’t know if they can sustain their operation,” Prior told the newspaper.

Ben Geman contributed.