Iowans are gathering to select a candidate for the Republican party ticket in U.S. presidential elections, but they may also be determining the future of a federal energy subsidy that has helped reestablish job growth in the gusty plain state.
Iowa leads the nation in wind energy production, and projects such as Rolling Hills Wind Farm have generated over US$5 billion of private investment for the state with an estimated 4000 jobs created. Building turbines has likewise decreased employment.
The success of wind turbine manufacturers in the state was the topic of a story today on CNN.com. It highlights a town where green jobs have employed Iowans who lost their jobs after a major factory was shuttered in 2007.
But dark clouds might be gathering once more. Some residents fear that good times could be over as uncertainty about a key tax credit's renewal rises with the ebb and flow of presidential politics.
Local manufacturers are heavily dependent upon the federal government's Production Tax Credit (PTC), which subsidizes the wind energy industry. The wind industry favors its renewal and says that past expirations have severely stymied business.
The credit expires at the end of 2012, and of all of the Republican candidates running, only New Gingrich has expressed support for the PTC's renewal. Rick Perry is opposed to the PTC.
A recent bill to renew the credit saw scant GOP support in the House. I attempted to contact the campaigns of Ron Paul, Mitt Romney, and Rick Santorum to learn if any candidate has reassessed their position, but received no responses.
Renewable energy advocates favor a national renewable electricity standard, which 24 states have imposed, and another five have established voluntary programs. Though, the creation of new subsidies beyond PTC runs against the campaign rhetoric that's been evidenced in Iowa.
The renewal of the PTC is an example of when politics can become local whether voters are active or indifferent to the electoral process.