Someone should check Chuck Grassley’s pulse. Iowa’s senior senator declared back in August of 2016 that a President Donald Trump would eliminate tax credits for wind energy “over my dead body.” And yet yesterday, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt declared that he wanted to do exactly that.
“I would do away with these incentives that we give to wind and solar,” Pruitt said at an event with the Kentucky Farm Bureau. “I’d let them stand on their own and compete against coal and natural gas and other sources, and let utilities make real-time market decisions on those types of things as opposed to being propped up by tax incentives and other types of credits that occur, both in the federal level and state level.”
Pruitt’s comments came on the day that Trump’s EPA announced they would put an end to the Clean Power Plan, which regulated greenhouse gas emissions and provided support to states looking to build up their clean energy infrastructure. Doing so could be a big boost to the coal industry, while costing jobs in states like Iowa that produce large amounts of renewable energy.
Grassley’s ultimatum about Trump came during the campaign when Trump’s hatred of wind energy was made ever more clear. Trump has long despised wind turbines, mostly because they obstructed certain views from his golf course in Scotland. Calling turbines “ugly monstrosities” and “horrendous machines,” Trump once said their construction in Scotland was the worst thing to happen to the nation in all of its history. He often has made exaggerated claims of how many birds turbines kill each year and gave outright incorrect statements about wind energy’s reliability.
But once Trump won the election, Grassley changed his tune some. This June, Grassley defended Trump’s stance on wind energy, saying he doubted that Trump would eliminate the production tax credit that Grassley himself first wrote and sponsored.
“So if he supports alternative energy, he supports wind,” Grassley told Iowa reporters shortly after Trump criticized wind energy at a stop in Iowa.
That appears to have been an overly-generous (and rather naive) read of the situation on Grassley’s part. Pruitt noted that any change would have to be approved by Congress, but it’s now abundantly clear that the Trump Administration is openly hostile to the future of wind and solar energy. That would be an extremely bad development for the Iowa economy, where around 9,000 jobs are tied to the wind industry.
And despite Pruitt’s characterization of creating a level playing field for all types of energy by eliminating wind and solar tax credits, the oil and gas industries already get plenty of government assistance. Billions of dollars are handed out to major oil and gas companies for things like tax deductions for drilling wells and depleting oil shale deposits. Ending early the tax credits for wind and solar – two still-developing industries – would actually give an upper hand to coal, oil and gas producers.
Iowa Republicans bragged often that their steadfast loyalty to Trump during last year’s election would give them an in with the president. So far, that hasn’t been the case at all. All Trump has done is make a fool of people like Grassley, exposing the senator as one of Iowa’s worst negotiators at the national level.
by Pat Rynard