Iowa governor sees 'confusion' in Romney camp about wind credit

Some of Iowa’s top Republicans are so taken aback by the Mitt Romney campaign’s opposition to extending wind energy tax credits that they’re questioning whether the position truly reflects the presumptive GOP nominee’s views.

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad (R), in comments that echo Sen. Chuck Grassley’s (R-Iowa) remarks, suggested campaign aides may be getting their wires crossed by claiming that Romney wants the production tax credit to expire at year’s end. The credit has helped fuel a wind energy boom in the Hawkeye State.

“The statement has been made by somebody involved with his campaign, not by Governor Romney, and I think there’s a confusion on their part,” Branstad told an Iowa radio station Thursday.

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The production tax credit will lapse at the end of the year unless Congress extends it. Branstad said Romney must be “educated” about the credit’s impact. 

“We now have a lot of farmers that receive rent from having wind turbines on their property and we have a lot of jobs associated with it, so we think he needs to be educated as to how important this is,” he said.

While Branstad and Grassley have expressed doubts about the former governor's position, the Romney campaign on Tuesday said it meant what it stated Monday: that the former Massachusetts governor wants the credit to expire.

“He will allow the wind credit to expire, end the stimulus boondoggles, and create a level playing field on which all sources of energy can compete on their merits,” a campaign spokesman said in a statement Monday.

The Romney campaign has been critical of stimulus-backed green energy programs. The production tax credit, however, long precedes the 2009 stimulus (it was created in a 1992 law), and Branstad suggested that the campaign is failing to distinguish between the two.

“I understand why they are very critical of the whole thing that was done by the Obama administration with regard to the stimulus and some of the money that was wasted on Solyndra, and some of these green energy projects didn’t make sense,” Branstad said in the interview.

“The tax credit, however, is a much different thing and it way preceded Obama and it was actually something that Sen. Grassley authored and has made a real difference over time,” Branstad added.

Iowa has the second-largest amount of installed wind power capacity, trailing only Texas.

Branstad also knocked the Romney campaign over its use of the term “windmills” rather than the more modern phrase “wind turbines” on its website, in a section critical of federal programs to spur commercialization of green energy.

“You’ve got a bunch of people that have put that website together that are bunch of East Coast people that need to get out here in the real world to find out what’s really going on,” he said.

Iowa is a battleground state in the 2012 election, and the Obama campaign has highlighted Romney’s opposition to the wind credit in recent days.

The Senate Finance Committee approved a broad package of tax break extensions Thursday that would extend the credit for a year, but the path forward for the "extenders" package is uncertain.

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