While it may seem to go against the usual anti-renewable energy stance that the red party is known for, this past weekend, the Republican candidates for president took a minute out of their busy schedules to sign a wind turbine. As part of the Iowa Straw Poll, the wind power signing event (organized by the American Wind Energy Association), was meant to show support for wind energy. Though the candidates willingly pulled out their sharpies to sign for the cameras, only a few had supportive words for renewable energy growth and Michelle Bachmann even declined the AWEA’s invitation — perhaps due to too many CFLs and LEDs lighting their staging area?
Iowa is the second largest producer of wind power in the US with 3,675 installed megawatts of wind energy (trailing quite a bit behind Texas which has over 10,000 installed megawatts of wind energy), which accounts for 20% of the state’s energy needs. The industry has been buoyed by a 1983 state-initiated renewable energy standard and recent tax credits and grants from the federal government helping to pay for up to 30% of installation costs for wind farms and single turbines. These incentives are set to expire in 2013 and advocates around the country are concerned about the impact that will have on the wind industry. In Iowa alone, the wind power industry has brought $5 billion in investments and countless jobs since 1983.
Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich, Herman Cain and Thaddeus McCotter all stopped by to ink their John Hancocks for the cameras and crowds. AWEA was most likely attempting to use its popularity in Iowa and lobbying party to help get some of the GOP candidates on their side of the energy conversation. During the turbine signing event Gingrich and Pawlenty both announced their support of continuing tax incentives for wind power while Paul, Cain, Romney and McCotter were silent. Ron Paul has a history of voting against tax incentives for wind power. The issue of wind energy was not discussed in the debate leading up to the Straw Poll and it is likely that this was just a smile and wave for most of these candidates — their silence hints that they’ll not be carrying turbines as a campaign theme.
Why the candidates won’t step up and say they support an industry that is creating jobs, keeping our air clean, conserving resources and making people money is well beyond our comprehension but at least now John Stewart will have proof of their hypocrisy when they predictably turn their backs on the clean energy industry.