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Alternative energy noticeably absent from 2012 campaign

Although legacy industries like oil and natural gas have gotten the expected attention during this election cycle, often left out of the national conversation has been talk of alternative energy — once a key part of President Obama’s platform in 2008.

This pattern of omission changed to some small degree during the first presidential debate on Wednesday, when renewables received a few mentions as the candidates sparred on a number of domestic policy issues.

Notably, Obama said:

On energy, Governor Romney and I, we both agree that we’ve got to boost American energy production, and oil and natural gas production are higher than they’ve been in years. But I also believe that we’ve got to look at the energy sources of the future, like wind and solar and biofuels, and make those investments.

Romney seized on Obama’s promise for further investment by noting what he sees as the administration’s failings on subsidies for alternative energy:

But don’t forget, you put $90 billion, like 50 years’ worth of [tax] breaks, into — into solar and wind, to Solyndra and Fisker and Tester and Ener1. I mean, I had a friend who said you don’t just pick the winners and losers, you pick the losers, all right? So this — this is not — this is not the kind of policy you want to have if you want to get America energy secure.

Obama’s current platform calls for continued diversification of our nation’s energy portfolio. Governor Romney’s strategy, “Plan For A Stronger Middle Class,” focuses primarily on efficiency, with an emphasis on streamlined processes for permitting and less regulatory gridlock.

As part of Need to Know’s series looking at the economic truths on Main Streets across the country, we traveled to Pueblo, Colorado — in part, because the city remains a key player in the nation’s burgeoning wind energy market.

Yet despite the state’s advances in wind energy since Obama took office, the Denver Post reported in August that Vestas Wind Systems, the world’s largest wind-turbine maker, would be cutting almost 90 jobs from its Pueblo factory. The company said the layoffs were unavoidable in anticipation of the year’s end, when federal wind production tax credits are poised to expire.

The President has favored an extension of these credits, without which the American Wind Energy Association has said the industry may lose 37,000 jobs.

In Iowa — another major player in the American wind energy market — Romney campaign spokesman Shawn McCoy told the Des Moines Register that a Romney administration would not renew the subsidies to the wind industry.

“[Mr. Romney] will allow the wind credit to expire, end the stimulus boondoggles, and create a level playing field on which all sources of energy can compete on their merits,” he said.

We want to know your thoughts. Should the federal government do more to support renewable energy in the coming years through tax credits and subsidies? Or should Washington stay out of the alternative energy game and let this growing industry make it on its own?

Sound off in the comments below or join the conversation on Facebook.


  • Jeanne

    Supporting the alternative energy industry is very important. Some of the tax credits given to big oil should be used for wind energy production. It is all US owned, it is there for the taking, the time is NOW.


    IF THIS GOV’MENT CAN SUBSIDIZE OIL AND GAS AND COAL AND HAS FOR THE PAST 100YRS; I SEE NO REASON WHY ALTERNATIVE energy should not receive the same chance. The protection of the environment has to be part of the picture. Americans need to be educated beginning with the very young via (the classrooms) right up the generational ladder.

  • lawrence

    the gov needs to get out of way and become limited gov. lower all taxes and regulations, and get the flock off our back, they are a bunch of parasites, also limited the time they serve, they are a bunch of self serving butholes, vote Romney,,,,,obama doesnt know what the hell hes doing.

  • DrPAS

    Oh like they have done for over 100 years to the industries that have polluted our environment so that now even the frogs and bees are sick, sick, sick.. Thinking wind and solar sure are not going to pollute us the way big corporations poison with the chemicals and pesticides and GMO items that they refer to as food..Wouldn’t your Grandparents think that stuff in the box sure isn’t any food they ever would have eaten..

  • DrPAS

    Oh and those Republicans sure do…hahahaha ..yep we could get into another war and that way make many more of their companies the big rich guys… sad sad sad ..

  • Ihope

    It’s the government’s duty to encourage fledgling industries, especially one that will help to keep our planet from becoming a toxic wasteland. I’ve been waiting since 1974 for the industry to flourish. Why can’t we get real? China and Europe have taken the lead. We are so far behind.

  • Anonymous

    “[Mr. Romney] will allow the wind credit to expire, end the stimulus boondoggles, and create a level playing field on which all sources of energy can compete on their merits,” he said.”

    With oil, gas, and coal benefiting from almost a century of subsidies, how is this “creating a level playing field,” Mr. Romney and company?
    Everyone knows we don’t have enough fossil fuel capacity to satisfy our needs, much less our wants here. So how is it anything less than almost high treason for Republicans, the Right and Romney to continue our dependence on foreign energy sources and subjecting our children to dirty coal which wastes water, fouls streams, dirties air and exacerbates asthma???

  • Anonymous

    Amen . . . and fewer regulations in the english language to

  • James

    A wise man once told me there are two best times to invest in something. Twenty years ago and right now! If we keep waiting for who knows what, nothing will ever change.

  • db

    If the wind energy was even close to being efficient it would not need continuous subsidy. People talk about tax credits to the fossil fuel industry. Has anybody bothered to see how much taxes are paid by energy companies versus how much subsidies they recieve.
    “I do believe in spooks,,,I do, I do, I do…”

  • TJ

    The infant industry argument, an economic rationale for protecting nascent industries, was proposed by none other than Alexander Hamilton himself – it’s purpose: to nurture said industries for the greater good of the nation, in his case the newly formed United States of America. As empirical evidence over the years has demonstrated, the policies formed out of the infant industry argument have allowed many countries to develop their fledgling industries into major international competitors. The prime reasoning for providing assistance to these newly emerging industries is that their economies of scale cannot be fully realized when they start out, thus making them vulnerable to competing established industries. However, later on they are likely to benefit from large economies of scale while also being more economically competitive than the older industries. Thus, Hamilton, and others since, proposed that we use the state to protect such industries early on in order to accelerate their maturation, as well as secure the benefits to the nation’s economy.

    The green energy industry is an example of a new industry that would have a huge positive impact on our economy as it matures and takes advantage of its economies of scale. Further, the green energy industry has other important strategic benefits for the United States because it allows us to become increasingly energy independent, strengthening our global geopolitical position. In addition, green energy helps to dampen our negative effects on the environment and on the planet as a whole. Therefore, it is reasonable to conclude that the federal government has an important role to play in supporting renewable energy in the coming years via economic policies – including tax credits and subsidies – as this industry moves out of its infant stages, matures into a competitor, and eventually becomes a paragon of green energy excellence in the international arena. This would be a proper fate befitting our history of ingenuity, resourcefulness, and competitive spirit as a nation.

  • Bill

    Well said, what of a good story

  • Bill

    whale of good story. Sorry, type to fast

  • DeeKat

    It is quite simple. The government should invest in what increases the common good.

    Our government funds pure research. That is research that has no immediate known product that will be produced for profit. Much of what made our modern world possible began with pure research. Though our current education is grossly unequal because it is sadly funded locally it is the common good to educate our children. This should be funded federally whether it is implemented locally or not (from what I have seen of Kansas my vote is not). Interstate highways were done for the common good. They are crumbling now because of our love affair with war and Tax cuts but eventually there will be the demand to rebuild our infrastructure (after it has cost us far more than it would have if we had done it properly in the first place). There are a great many things in our country done for the common good which people have seemed to have become blind to even though they make use of them every day.

    Currently it is in the best interest of oil/gas/coal to suppress the development of alternative energy sources and it will be until it is more expensive to ‘harvest’ those resources than what can be charged for the product. These companies do not count the cost of lives and the health of the planet in calculating their profit. For them that is not a issue and won’t be unless the government makes it so. There are coal fields that can generate energy for decades but that will drastically change our world’s climate which will have a negative impact on the common good. Until oil/gas/coal are no longer profitable there will be no development of alternative energy by these industries and the cost of postponing this development has already done great harm to the people or our country and the world.

    Not that long ago baby cribs were made with the space between the rails large enough that a baby could wedge its head between the slats and die. It was cheaper to make the space wide and the death of a child was not counted as a cost in calculating the profit. This was a known problem and the industries making these cribs could have on their own increase the cost of production and even pass that cost on to the consumer. They chose not to and it took government regulations to address the problem. Government regulation occur because of need not because of a desire for regulations. These regulations, the investment into the common good always need adjusted for both changing times and for failures in the design. You do not throw the baby out with the bath water. You adjust and improve.

  • Raymond Tilly

    Normally “early adopters” push the development of the latest technologies. These “early adopters” are willing to spend their own money to pay high prices for the luxury of being the first on the block to have the latest wis-bang. They realize that not all new technology will not pan out! Over a few generations of the technology natural “Darwinian-ism” eliminates ill-conceived technologies and optimizes the best new technology! By the time the technology is broadly adopted it has been optimized. When the government “mandates” a new technology it uses public funds to buy technology at a premium price which will most assuredly be quickly out of date. This is like akin to thinking that nine woman can give birth to one baby in one month!

  • Conor

    This board is a good example of why PBS needs to be pushed off the public teat. A sorrier collection of partisan insults and economic illiteracy have I seldom seen. I especially love the “oil subsideies were bad, so let’s subsidize wind/solar too!” line of thinking. Sharp.