Across the plains of Iowa, Colorado, Oklahoma, Kansas and South Dakota, tall turbines with sleek blades dot once-clear horizons, churning out carbon-free energy to add to the nation's power grid. The blades seem to wave a greeting, on windy days at least, to whoever drives across those open spaces.
The wind industry's rapid growth has been cause for excitement among both Republican and Democratic policymakers in the heartland states. They welcome the jobs that come with it. In South Dakota, which has the capacity to generate almost a quarter of its energy from the turbines, "wind is not a partisan issue," says Hunter Roberts, the state's energy director.
But it is a controversial issue in Washington these days, threatening to stop the turbine boom before it progresses much further. Fiscal hawks in Congress — those who don't represent wind states — question whether Congress can still afford to dole out the generous tax credit that has helped fuel the industry's rise. Wind energy credits are just one of several renewable energy incentives set to expire at year's end.