The first presidential debate came and went without mention of the wind energy production tax credit (PTC) and hardly any discussion of renewables. The story was quite different, however, at the second debate between President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, held Tuesday night at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y.
In fact, energy was arguably one of the most contentious issues of the night, and sparked heated disputes between the two candidates, who traded jabs on policies that – as described Tuesday night – did not differ all that much.
Obama has said he favors an ‘all of the above’ energy approach, including oil, gas, wind, solar and biofuels – a position he stated in the first presidential debate and reiterated Tuesday night.
"We've got to control our own energy, you know – not only oil and natural gas, which we've been investing in – but also, we've got to make sure we're building the energy sources of the future," he said at Tuesday's debate. "Not just thinking about next year, but 10 years from now, 20 years from now. That's why we've invested in solar and wind and biofuels, energy-efficient cars."
And despite the virtual absence of renewables from Romney's official energy plan, released in August, this time, the former Massachusetts governor also expressed support for clean energy like wind and solar power.
"Look, I want to make sure we use our oil, our coal, our gas, our nuclear, our renewables," he said. "I believe very much in our renewable capabilities – ethanol, wind [and] solar will be an important part of our energy mix."
The PTC and wind jobs
At the first debate, neither candidate mentioned the jobs being lost in the wind energy supply chain due to the looming expiration of the PTC.
The PTC's omission from the first debate may have seemed glaring to some in the wind industry, considering that the president had made the critical tax credit a cornerstone of his campaign efforts in Iowa and Colorado – two states that have lost hundreds of wind energy jobs over the past few months.
This time, however, Obama came out swinging against Romney, who has stated he would let the PTC expire at the end of this year.
"What I'm not for is us ignoring the other half of the quotation," Obama said, referring to renewables. "So for example, on wind energy, when Gov. Romney says these are "imaginary jobs,' when you've got thousands of people right now in Iowa, right now in Colorado who are working, creating wind power, with good-paying manufacturing jobs – and the Republican senator in that, in Iowa, is all for it, providing tax credits to help this work – and Gov. Romney says, "I'm opposed; I'd get rid of it' – that's not an energy strategy for the future."
Romney refuted the claims, saying he does, in fact, support wind jobs.
"I don't have a policy of stopping wind jobs in Iowa, and they're not phantom jobs – they're real jobs," he said.
"I appreciate wind jobs in Iowa and across our country," he added. "I appreciate the jobs in coal and oil and gas. I'm going to make sure that taking advantage of our energy resources will bring back manufacturing to America. We're going to get through a very aggressive energy policy, 3.5 million more jobs in this country."
From their remarks Tuesday night, it would appear that both candidates support the wind energy industry. However, for any candidate or political party, campaign rhetoric and actual policies do not always match up.
A one-year PTC extension remains alive in an omnibus tax-extenders bill, which the Senate is expected to consider during the lame-duck session of Congress. No matter which candidate is elected, all eyes in the wind industry will be on the House and Senate.