GOP candidates generally oppose green energy incentives

Five GOP candidates for president offered very different assessments of the federal governments’ wind energy tax credit and renewable fuel standard during a forum Tuesday morning in Pella.

Those two government initiatives have paid big dividends for the Hawkeye State, spurring major growth in the wind and renewable fuels industries.

The wind energy industry employs about 3,000 people in Iowa and accounts for 20 percent of all electricity generated in the state, according to the Iowa Wind Energy Association. And the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association says biofuels support 83,000 jobs in the state, adding nearly $12 billion to Iowa’s GDP.

But some candidates said they would work to greatly limit or even do away with the programs.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry is against both wind energy tax credits and a renewable fuel standard, at least at the federal level.

“I happen to believe the federal government needs to be completely out of the energy business, picking winners and losers,” he said.

Perry said if states want to compete against each other by putting similar credits or standards in place, “that is a correct and proper role for the state.”

U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) said she’d also like to see those programs eliminated, along with subsidies for other forms of energy.

“What I would like to do is a re-examination of those credits because quite frankly I’d like to pull them back and let these industries be more self-supporting and stand on their own,” Bachmann said.

Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Penn.) said he supports keeping a renewable fuel standard in place because of its impact on clean air. But he would like to see incentives for ethanol and other forms of energy phased out over a five-year period.

“I believe we have to get rid of all tax incentives for all energy. I believe we need to have a level playing field,” Santorum said.

At the other end of the spectrum was former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Georgia), who said he’d much rather see money for energy go to Iowa and South Dakota than overseas.

“I’d like to see some kind of encouragement for every vehicle to have flex-fuel capabilities and every gas station to be a fuel station, not just a gas station,” he said.

Gingrich also called for long term renewals of tax credits, rather than every year or two.

“I would like to see a minimum 10 years tax credits with a rolling annual renewal like football coaches,” he said. “That’s a pretty good model to keep people focused.”

U.S. Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) was also at the forum but didn’t address the topic. National frontrunners Herman Cain and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney didn’t attend the event.