Rove and Gibbs talk tax credit, presidential politics at wind conference

Republican and Democratic political pros were united June 5 in the need for immediate extension of a favored tax incentive for wind energy at the industry’s annual conference, but differed only slightly on its prospects.

Former President George W. Bush advisor Karl Rove and former President Barack Obama press spokesman Robert Gibbs appeared at the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) conference in Atlanta, and agreed that the federal production tax credit (PTC) is viable public policy.

AWEA has made the PTC extension a centerpiece of its conference, with an emphasis on the broad political support it has received from both parties. The industry has been hyping the PTC as a wind manufacturing aid. But projects for 2013 have been cancelled and companies up and down the domestic supply chain have started to cut back due to industry uncertainty.

In a largely low-key joint appearance, Rove and Gibbs said the government faces a “fiscal cliff” between the November election and January inauguration as the Bush tax cuts expire and a whole host of tax breaks for various industries, including the PTC, need to be addressed, as well as a budget stalemate. The lame-duck session in November is a more likely time frame.

Gibbs held out a slim hope for a summer extension, especially since Obama made it a high-profile priority in recent weeks. “We’ve got presidential leadership on renewable energy, in particular wind energy,” Gibbs said.

“One of the worst things he could have done was put it on the “top 5” list,” Rove said. He reasoned that making it an election year priority lessens, not improves its chances for passage in the summer.

Only a bit of the partisan rancor that defines contemporary political discussion surfaced. The model is the bipartisan energy Policy Act of 2005, which had provisions for traditional fuel sources and renewables that members of both parties fought. The speakers tried to one-up each other over how the political context played out then and now as Rove said “there was a little thing called the Iraq war” and how some “hated Bush’s guts.”

 Gibbs countered, “remember, this is a president who had to produce his birth certificate.” After a few well-placed arrows fired Donald Trump’s way by both, they returned to the script: pass the PTC extension now.