The region’s once-promising wind energy industry has seen its share of troubles lately.
But it has found an unlikely ally in the form of former White House advisor Karl Rove.
In a rare display of bipartisanship, Rove, generally recognized as the architect of President George W. Bush’s campaigns, joined Robert Gibbs, a key confidant of President Barack Obama in advancing the cause of a tax credit for wind power development.
In a presentation before the American Wind Power Association’s annual meeting, Rove said: “We need conservative Republicans who can say, ‘This means jobs to my district,’ … and we need Democrats to say, ‘This is a way to expand the range of options that we have in this country for energy.’ ”
As reported in the Business Times’ online edition last month, U.S. Rep. Lois Capps, a Santa Barbara Democrat, indicated her support for the 2.2 cent per kilowatt-hour tax break that has vaulted wind production into one of the most popular forms of new energy installation. The tax break also applies to geothermal, biomass and landfill gas plants; at last count about 100 members of Congress, including representatives from both parties, had signed on to a bill granting an extension.
People like Matt Riley of Infinity Wind Power, a consulting firm on the South Coast, say that unless the credits are extended until 2016 the industry will shut down, costing tens of thousands of jobs nationwide. Riley has two projects in development in Kansas that will serve up to 100,000 homes.
Meanwhile, companies such as Clipper Windpower, with headquarters in Carpinteria, face an uncertain future without the tax breaks. That’s because United Technologies is in the process of selling Clipper and without certainty about pricing in the U.S. market it may not be marketable to another U.S. concern.
Add to that the fact that Camarillo-based Power-One has a substantial business providing inverters to the wind turbine industry and you can see the stakes for our area are not small. Indeed, with tax credits in place a number of area agribusinesses may want to take a plunge on smaller scale wind projects; many experts believe that four more years of tax credits should suffice to make wind competitive with conventional power—absent a total and extended collapse in the price of oil and natural gas.
Cynics will wonder what would motivate Rove, a Fox News commentator with sterling conservative credentials, to support what amounts to a government subsidy. But in this case, the tax credits already have been in place and they are rather small.
Having a predictable policy that moves wind power into the competitive mainstream seems like a sensible way to go. If Rove can ride to the rescue of the wind power tax credit, the Central Coast will benefit.