By Zack Colman - 09/06/12 04:48 PM EDT
Sixty conservative groups on Thursday urged Congress to kill a popular wind energy incentive.
In a letter to lawmakers, the groups said the federal government should not prop up wind energy with a 2.2 cent per kilowatt-hour tax credit.
They said the industry had become too dependent on the incentive, which the groups said amounted to $5 billion in tax breaks for a technology that provides 2 percent of the nation’s power.
Groups signing the letter include the Koch brothers-backed Americans for Prosperity, the Club for Growth and FreedomWorks.
The tax credit is set to expire on Dec. 31. President Obama wants to extend it and has expressed his support in swing states such as Colorado and Iowa.
GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney wants to let it end as scheduled.
Obama has called on Congress to limit the $4 billion of tax credits for the oil and gas industry, which Romney and Republicans have generally supported.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said last month that he is “very confident” the wind energy tax incentive will pass the Senate this year.
The Obama administration, Democrats and some Republicans in states with developed wind energy sectors have framed the tax incentive as a jobs issue. The administration frequently cites wind industry projections — which were backed up by a recent Energy Department report — that failing to extend the credit would cost 37,000 direct and indirect jobs, while maintaining it would preserve 75,000.
Americans for Prosperity's connection to the Koch brothers, who made their billions in oil and gas, have led to attacks from Democrats about its intentions in the energy debate. Though the group and its allies often call for the removal of incentives for renewable energy in the name of free markets, they have largely avoided doing the same for oil and gas firms.
Peter Kelley, spokesman for the American Wind Energy Association, said "it is not a surprise" that AFP came out against the incentive.
"We don’t think it makes any difference," he told The Hill on Thursday. "They were opposed to us before, they’re still opposed to us and we’re still going to win this fight."
Kelley said the $5 billion figure the conservative groups used was "unrealistically high," and that the uncertainty surrounding the incentive ensures wind installations will decline next year.
— This story was updated at 5:27 p.m.