During his campaign tour of Iowa last week, President Obama took the opportunity to praise Iowa’s burgeoning wind power industry and called for Congress to extend vital wind-energy tax credits. Wind power supplies just 3% of electricity nationwide; but in Iowa, it supplies 20% of the state’s electricity needs. Farmers across Iowa have used the tax credit to build wind turbines among their corn and soy crops, earning them tens of thousands in extra income per year. One of the farms Obama toured was the Heil farm—1,000 acres in central Iowa, where father and son Richard and Jeff Heil are part of a cooperative of 52 turbines known as the Laurel Wind Farm. While the Heils were gracious hosts, they later came out as Romney supporters and released a press release criticizing Obama’s policies.
During a speech following the farm visit, Obama noted that the tax credit allowed for the expansion of the wind industry, both in turbines for farmers and the manufacturing of parts like towers and turbine blades. “I’m proud of the fact that while we used to have to import parts like those, today they’re made in Newton, made in Iowa, made in America by American workers,” Obama said. Some 7,000 jobs in Iowa are connected to the wind industry, and 75,000 jobs are tied to the wind industry nationwide. “My opponent in this election says he wants to end tax credits for wind energy, wind energy producers that make all this possible,” Obama continued. “He’s called these sources of energy ‘imaginary’; his new running mate has called them a ‘fad.’”
On Mitt Romney’s official website his energy policy states that ““In place of real energy, Obama has focused on an imaginary world where government-subsidized windmills and solar panels could power the economy.”
While coal still dominates, its share of the national energy pie has fallen to 42%, while wind power has doubled over the past four years. Still, Republican opponent Mitt Romney in his campaign tour of Ohio touted the importance of coal and criticized environmental regulations on the coal industry. As one CBS News report noted: “Mr. Obama’s administration has approved regulations to reduce mercury and other pollutants by 90 percent, which require plant owners who do not already comply to install mechanisms to limit the pollution. The regulation largely affects older plants and appears to have prompted owners of such plants for moving up their timetable for closing those plants down.”
Still, while the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency passed the first-ever restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants this past March, those limits do not extend to existing power plants; nor has the administration made headway on passing cap-and-trade legislation.
On coal, Romney’s energy plan notes: “In my administration, coal will not be a four-letter word. Instead, we will applaud the industry’s success in consistently expanding electricity output while reducing pollution.”
He failed to mention the many detrimental air pollutants that come from burning coal each year, including 10,000 tons of sulfur dioxide which causes acid rain; 10,200 tons of nitrogen oxide which contributes to respiratory illness; and 500 tons of particulate matter which lead to bronchitis and lung disease. Nor did he mention the 3.7 million tons of carbon dioxide released by coal plants each year, equivalent to chopping down 161 million trees.