Other than Mitt Romney's pick of Paul Ryan as a running mate, the big issue on the campaign trail this week has been U.S. energy policy.
President Obama wants to extend the wind energy tax credit that's set to expire at the end of the year. The tax incentive is opposed by many Republican lawmakers including his presidential opponents. During an interview with 60 Minutes on Sunday, Ryan eluded to such tax incentives as a form of "crony capitalism and corporate welfare" and he essentially called green energy a "fad."
During campaign stops last week in Colorado and this week in the battleground state of Iowa, Obama has been touting the benefits of America's bourgeoning wind industry.
"America generates more than twice as much electricity from wind than when I took office," Obama said in the cornhusker state. "So my attitude is let's stop giving taxpayer subsidies to oil companies that don't need them, and let's invest in clean energy that will put people back to work right here in Iowa."
Since 2008 wind power output has jumped from 25-gigawatts to 50-gigawatts, or enough to now power 15 million homes, according to the American Wind Energy Association. The wind energy sector currently employs 37,000 workers nationwide including 7,000 jobs in Iowa and 5,000 in Colorado.Without the credit, the expansion of wind power would come to a halt and thousands of people could lose their jobs.
The tax issue in discussion currently grants wind energy companies a $0.02 tax credit for every kilowatt-hour generated. The tax credit will cost the federal government $1.6 billion this year.
Romney would let the benefit expire in an effort to limit government intervention and return to what he considers a more pure form of free-market principles. However, Iowa's Republican Governor Terry Branstad and Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) disagree with Romney on this issue and are pushing to extend the credit.
The increase in both jobs and wind energy output is due in large part to President Obama's $800 billion economic stimulus package passed during his first months in office, which allotted $90 billion to clean energy investment.
According to Time magazine senior reporter Michael Grunwald, the Obama's stimulus bill, formally known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, was the most "transformative energy bill in history." Not only did the bill create the largest wind farms in the world, it created more solar farms and a state-of-the-art electric and lithium battery industry, says Grunwald in the accompanying interview, noting the vast details in his new The New New Deal.
But for all the innovation and successes of the clean energy program, the most reported story is its single failure: Solyndra, the solar panel manufacturer that went bankrupt after receiving $500 million in government loans. Solyndra is the "crony capitalism" Ryan accused the Obama administration of in his CBS interview Sunday.
"President Obama is picking winners and losers based on connections," Ryan said. "We want to get Washington out of the business of picking winners and losers. We want entrepreneurs to have the barriers removed from in front of them, so that people can work hard and succeed."
But it wasn't Obama who picked Solyndra, says Grunwald in the accompanying interview. The solar panel-maker was actually chosen by the Bush Administration to receive funding, but the loan did not come to fruition until Obama took office. Additionally, investigation after investigation (even some led by Republicans) have shown there were no signs of fraud or wrong-doing in the case of Solyndra or any other aspect of the government's clean energy portfolio, says Grunwald.
However, the hunt continues. Rep. Darrel Issa has requested more emails from Department of Energy officials who used personal accounts while discussing the company, reports the Wall Street Journal this week.
U.S. taxpayers will recover $24 million from the Solyndra default, according to recent reports.
In the grand scheme of things, the Solyndra loss accounts for just 1 percent of the $90 billion clean energy portfolio. Grunwald says it was expected that some companies benefiting from federal funding would fail.
Do you support the wind energy tax cuts? And do you think America should continue down the road towards clean energy? Tell us what you think!