Two of Iowa's most influential voices in Washington, D.C., said they'd like to see a permanent federal tax credit for firms that provide wind energy, a growing piece of the state's economy. The extension may face opposition as part of larger cost-cutting discussions.

"I have long believed that the wind energy production tax credit ought to be extended beyond the short-term extensions that have typically been enacted," said U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, in a statement.

Harkin and U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, have said long-term funding mechanisms would help stabilize the industry and spark more development.

Wind energy companies get 2.1 cents from the federal government for every kilowatt hour of energy created. Congress passed the tax credit in 1992. It has been renewed several times, most recently as part of the federal stimulus bill in 2009.

The new expiration date is Dec. 31, 2012. A U.S. House committee is considering legislation to extend the expiration to 2016.

Iowa has 3,000 utility-scale turbines, second only to Texas.

Grassley said the constant speculation that the tax credit will expire hampers economic development.

"There's good reason to continue the tax incentive for wind energy and foster more extensive development of this alternative," he said in a statement.

But the extension may have a tough battle as Congress faces continued pressure to eliminate tax breaks.

U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Sioux City, said his vote will hinge on whether the credit makes financial sense for the federal government.

"It needs to be reviewed in the context of overall policy and budget, and it is unlikely to come as a stand-alone bill," King said in a statement.

Iowa Wind Energy Association Executive Director Harold Prior said a longer-term tax credit will give companies more incentive to develop projects, which take up to five years to complete.

Right now, firms are weary of green-lighting plans past the 2012 deadline, since it's unclear that federal money will be available, he said. They're rushing to get jobs completed before the cut off.

The issue happens every time an expiration date approaches, said Prior, of Milford, whose group represents about 150 firms in the wind energy business.

"It will decrease anywhere from 75 to 100 percent, in terms of the number of new wind farm installations going into place," he said.

Prior is optimistic the production tax credit will be extended this fall or winter.

"It is just a matter of finding the point of compromise where we can get both Democrats and Republicans at the federal level to agree that this needs to be done," he said.

Grassley said the tax credit makes sense for the industry, feeding more development and more jobs.

"Conventional energy sources, including oil and gas, enjoy countless tax incentives and many of them are permanent law," he said.

 

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