Despite convention, Ga. sees little wind power industry

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback gestures Monday as he makes a point about wind-turbine manufacturing in his state during a press conference at WindPower, the convention in Atlanta of the American Wind Energy Association. Looking on is the convention chairman, Gabriel Alonso, CEO of EDP Renewables North America, and Denise Bode, the association’s CEO.

ATLANTA — Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe called opponents to the extension of a federal tax break for the wind industry “un-American.”

He made his remarks Monday at the WindPower convention, which has a projected 12,000 attendees.

“Anyone standing in the way of this industry, frankly, they’re un-American,” he said.

The industry is seeking a five-year extension. It is set to expire at the end of this year.

Although Beebe is a Democrat and President Obama also supports the extension, it has backing from Republicans as well. Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) also addressed the convention and called for renewal of the production tax credit as well but with a four-year phase out that other supporters oppose.

Both men are at least partly motivated by the number of jobs in their states with companies that manufacture wind-turbine components. There are an estimated 30,000 wind power-manufacturing jobs in the United States.

Both states are also seeing more electricity generated with wind, which is becoming a draw for other factory jobs from consumer-products companies. For example, Mars recently announced a new plant to make M&M candies in Kansas so it can tell its customers it is powered completely by environmentally friendly wind.

“In addition to wheat and cattle, I want Kansas to become known as the Renewable State,” Brownback said.

Beebe described wind power as vital to energy independence which would free U. S. foreign policy from having to be focused on oil and natural gas imports from countries “who don’t like us.”

Congress hasn’t passed any tax legislation this year, largely over budget concerns. A repeat of last year’s bloody debt-ceiling debate is coming early next year.

Before then, House and Senate leaders are struggling to prevent large spending cuts set to trigger automatically in December as the result of the failed Super Committee negotiations. Those cuts are politically unpopular because they include Medicare and the Pentagon. “It’s a difficult political environment,” Brownback said of his conversations with former congressional colleagues. “It’s a very difficult financial environment.”

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