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August 03, 2012

True Colors

Although he's said and done some odd things in his day ("corporations are people"; dogs are luggage), I doubt anyone would argue that Mitt Romney's completely off his rocker. So why did he just announce his opposition to one of the biggest American success stories of the past decade?

The U.S. wind energy industry not only supports 75,000 jobs across the country but also has emerged as an important energy source. By the end of this year, seven states will get more than 10 percent of their total electricity from wind. Two states, South Dakota and Iowa, currently generate more than 20 percent of their electricity from wind power. On its present track, the wind industry will produce at least 20 percent of the entire country's electricity by 2030, probably more.

That won't happen, though, if Romney gets his wish and Congress allows the American Renewable Energy Production Tax Credit (PTC, for short) for wind energy to expire at the end of this year. Without the PTC, the U.S. wind industry will contract -- losing as many as 37,000 U.S. jobs in the process.

It does seem crazy to come out in favor of forcing thousands of Americans out of work at a time when jobs and the economy are the top two issues on voters' minds. In Iowa, where the Republican governor joined the state's entire congressional delegation in support of extending the PTC, the reaction ranged from stunned disbelief to anguished outrage.

Of course, after a summer of extreme heat, drought, and wildfires (in June, the lower 48 states were 2 degrees F. warmer than the 20th century average), it seems beyond crazy to put the brakes on wind power, which can help to replace carbon-polluting coal and natural gas power plants. Then again, that particular craziness is officially sanctioned by much of the current Republican leadership, so it's not quite as surprising that Romney would subscribe as well.

The official rationale for Romney's opposition to the tax credit is that he doesn't believe in energy subsidies. Unless, of course, those subsidies are already going to Big Oil.  

And there's the rub. What's really happening here is that Mitt Romney is showing his true colors. The loss of thousands of jobs means little when weighed against the interests of the Koch brothers, the American Petroleum Institute, and a fossil-fuel industry that could spend up to $1 billion during this election.

Of course, dirty energy industries have to spend that kind of money because their message (dirty energy is better than clean energy; killing clean energy jobs is better than creating clean energy jobs) is an insult to common sense.

Advocates for wind and other clean energy sources, on the other hand, don't have a billion dollars. Not even close. What we do have on our side, though, is the truth. We need wind power. We need the energy it produces and the jobs it supports. And if we care about stabilizing our climate, then we need clean energy from wind to replace carbon-polluting energy sources like coal, gas, and oil.

The Production Tax Credit is currently stalled in Congress, but it's already garnered significant bipartisan support, including 25 Republican cosponsors in the House. Let's hope this critical element of our national clean energy strategy isn't left twisting in the wind.

The Sierra Club Voter Education Fund seeks to educate voters about the records of the 2012 GOP presidential candidates by highlighting their extreme positions on public health and other issues of critical importance to the American people and encourage the public to find out more about the candidates and their positions on these issues. 

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