Mitt Romney, who opposed government subsidies for clean power and thought all energy production technologies should compete equally in the free market, did not win the election. That's the good news. The bad news is that his backward policies are still popular among many congressional Republicans, posing a threat to a wind-energy tax credit that is creating jobs and helping to wean the country off fossil fuels.
Unless it is extended, the tax credit will expire at the end of the year. Although it has enjoyed bipartisan support since it was created in 1992, the credit is increasingly under fire from GOP lawmakers who argue that it's not affordable during a fiscal crisis, that it's a form of corporate welfare that assists private wind developers but not the public, and that it's not necessary in an era of rising and abundant production of natural gas.
The tax credit costs about $1 billion a year — hardly a budget breaker even in bad times. It supports not just developers of wind farms but companies that make turbines and other parts to supply them, accounting for an estimated 37,000 jobs. The argument that the credit doesn't benefit taxpayers reflects a gaping blind spot many Republicans suffer when it comes to environmentally beneficial policies. Power plants that burn fossil fuels are the nation's top source of greenhouse gas emissions, which are altering the climate in dangerous (and expensive) ways. But it's not just about carbon dioxide: Fossil fuel plants, including those that burn natural gas — which is cleaner than coal but still highly polluting — add toxins to the air and oceans, prematurely killing thousands of people every year and boosting healthcare costs.