The Latest Wedge Issue in the Presidential Campaign: Wind Power?

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Aug. 15 2012 4:36 PM

Wind Power Grows Mighty in U.S., Becomes Campaign Issue

Barack Obama wind power
While Barack Obama is making campaign stops at wind farms, Mitt Romney is touring coal mines.

Photo by Jim Watson/AFP/GettyImages

Solar power and fracking get all the press, but wind has quietly become a major force in the U.S. power grid.

Will Oremus Will Oremus

Will Oremus is Slate's senior technology writer.

According to a new report from the Department of Energy, wind accounted for about a third of all new electricity capacity installed in the country in 2011. That’s not too far behind natural gas, which accounted for 49 percent of new capacity amid an ongoing boom in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

Advertisement

Overall, it still amounts to just 3.3 percent of the nation’s electricity demand—coal and natural gas dominate, followed by nuclear. But it has now been the second-fastest-growing electricity source in six of the past seven years, thanks in part to a renewable electricity production tax credit originally signed into law by George H. W. Bush in 1992.

Wind’s wild ride may soon come to an end, though. The tax credit is set to expire at the end of this year, and while the Senate has passed an extension, the Republican-controlled House has not.

Now the fate of the wind industry is becoming an issue in the presidential campaign. Mitt Romney on Tuesday toured a coal plant in Ohio to slam Obama for environmental policies that prioritize renewable energy sources over fossil fuels.

“If you don't believe in coal, if you don't believe in energy independence for America, just say it,” Romney said, according to the Columbus Dispatch. "If you believe the whole answer for our energy needs is wind and solar, then say that." 

Obama hit back on campaign stops in Iowa, arguing that ending the wind credit would cost the country 37,000 jobs. He included a dig at Romney over the old anecdote that he once strapped the family dog to his car roof on a road trip. From the Des Moines Register:

“Governor Romney even explained his energy policy this way: I’m quoting here: ‘You can’t drive a car with a windmill on it.’ That’s what he said about wind power,” Obama told about 800 Iowans at a campaign rally in rural Oskaloosa. “Now I don’t know if he’s actually tried that. I know he’s had other things on his car."

Despite its huge growth of late, the U.S. wind industry remains far behind that of several other countries in terms of its contribution to the nation's overall energy supply. Denmark's wind capacity is about 29 percent of its annual demand, and that figure is also above 10 percent in Portugal, Spain, Ireland, and Germany.

In the United States, Texas is by far the largest wind power producer, followed distantly by Iowa, California, Illinois, Minnesota, Washington, Oregon, and, of course, Oklahoma, where the wind comes sweeping down the plain.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

TODAY IN SLATE

History

The Self-Made Man

The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.

Michigan’s Tradition of Football “Toughness” Needs to Go—Starting With Coach Hoke

Does Your Child Have “Sluggish Cognitive Tempo”? Or Is That Just a Disorder Made Up to Scare You?

The First Case of Ebola in America Has Been Diagnosed in Dallas

Windows 8 Was So Bad That Microsoft Will Skip Straight to Windows 10

Politics

Mad About Modi


Why the controversial Indian prime minister drew 19,000 cheering fans to Madison Square Garden.


Building a Better Workplace

You Deserve a Pre-cation

The smartest job perk you’ve never heard of.

Don’t Panic! The U.S. Already Stops Ebola and Similar Diseases From Spreading. Here’s How.

Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD

The XX Factor
Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD
  News & Politics
Politics
Sept. 30 2014 6:59 PM The Democrats’ War at Home Can the president’s party defend itself from the president’s foreign policy blunders?
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 30 2014 7:02 PM At Long Last, eBay Sets PayPal Free
  Life
Gaming
Sept. 30 2014 7:35 PM Who Owns Scrabble’s Word List? Hasbro says the list of playable words belongs to the company. Players beg to differ.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 30 2014 3:21 PM Meet Jordan Weissmann Five questions with Slate’s senior business and economics correspondent.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 30 2014 8:54 PM Bette Davis Talks Gender Roles in a Delightful, Animated Interview From 1963
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 30 2014 7:00 PM There’s Going to Be a Live-Action Tetris Movie for Some Reason
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 30 2014 6:44 PM Ebola Was Already Here How the United States contains deadly hemorrhagic fevers.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 30 2014 5:54 PM Goodbye, Tough Guy It’s time for Michigan to fire its toughness-obsessed coach, Brady Hoke.