Six GOP presidential hopefuls join leading Iowa Republicans in endorsing wind energy

GOP presidential candidates Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich, Herman Cain, and Thaddeus McCotter joined Iowa’s leading Republicans and hundreds of straw poll voters in covering a 130-foot wind turbine blade with signatures at the entrance to the Iowa straw poll.

After signing the blade, Pawlenty said he wants to fix the boom-bust cycle created for the U.S. wind power industry by the constant threat of the Production Tax Credit’s expiring (next in 2012). “We’ve got to smooth that out,” Pawlenty said. “[L]et’s have them for like 3 or 5 years, so that wind turbines investors can plan, get the permits, get the approvals, get the wind farm projects done. One year at a time is too unpredictable and too short, for the people who want to expand wind energy.”

Gingrich called wind power a piece of his American energy program, and said he favors a 10-year extension of the PTC, to avoid the “up-and-down effect” on renewable energy development when the policy changes. “If you’re going to have tax credits that are designed to create investment, they have to have a long enough time horizon that people who invest believe that they’ll be there,” Gingrich said.

U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), a leader in getting the Production Tax Credit for renewable energy extended from 2003 through 2012, also signed the blade. He said that considering the U.S. currently spends $830 million a day on foreign oil, we need an “all of the above” energy strategy that includes wind.

U.S. Rep. Tom Latham (R-Iowa 4) credited wind energy for creating 700 manufacturing jobs at the TPI Composites wind blade plant in Newton, Iowa, which was formerly the headquarters for Maytag before those jobs moved overseas.

Steve Lockard, CEO of TPI Composites, greeted the candidates at the giant wind blade, which was made at his factory and drives turbines each capable of making power for 500-1,000 homes. Lockard said he’s running his blade plant 24 hours a day, six days a week. He has enough orders to keep all 700 workers on the job through late fall 2012. After that, however, he said orders have dried up because of uncertainty over whether Congress will extend the tax incentive.

Gov. Terry Branstad (R) told wind supporters last night at a pre-straw poll reception that “I never imagined how far we’d come” when he signed a state renewable energy standard in 1983, sparking an industry that now makes 20 percent of Iowa’s electricity from wind power.

U.S. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa 5), said today as he signed the blade that wind turbines generates more electricity in his congressional district than all the electricity his district uses. U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla. 20), at the straw poll to comment for the Democrats, stopped by and posed with King. She said Florida is looking forward to welcoming wind energy, too.

Also signing the blade, parked at the center of “candidates’ row” at the Iowa State Center, were Matt Strawn, chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa, Kraig Paulsen, speaker of the Iowa House of Representatives, and numerous other state elected officials and business leaders.

Wind power industry executives staffing the blade today included Dave Drescher of Exelon, Jeff Bishop of EDP Renewables, Harold Prior, executive director of the Iowa Wind Energy Association, and Rob Gramlich, senior vice president for public policy at AWEA.