Congressman Mike Pompeo was in Kiowa County on Monday, courting area voters for his re-election bid against Robert Tillman (D-Wichita) and Libertarian Party candidate Thomas Jefferson on the Nov. 6 ballot. Pompeo met with local officials, spoke with business owners and ate lunch at the Kiowa County Senior Center.
Pompeo, who has been the representative for the 4th Congressional District since 2010, would represent Kiowa County next year. Redistricting expanded the 4th District to include Kiowa, Pratt, Stafford, Edwards and Comanche counties.
“They are pretty similar in regards to agriculture and small business people,” said Pompeo when asked about similarities of the new district. “Lots of rural Kansas.”
Pompeo is at the center of a bipartisan fight over renewal of the Production Tax Credit on Renewable Energy, also known as the Wind Tax Credit.
The federal tax credit, created in 1992 as part of the Energy Policy Act (EPACT), provides incentives for the manufacturing, installation and development of wind energy. It combines grants, tax incentives and energy production rebates on the first ten years of energy production. The federal incentives are widely credited with an increase in wind production and wind energy jobs throughout the U.S.
“I’ve concluded that the federal government shouldn’t be in the business of supporting any [energy industry],” said Pompeo. “I’ve opposed every single tax credit including the oil and gas tax credit, hydro[electric], algae, wind and solar tax credits. I want to get rid of them all. I want to make it a 100 percent level playing field, so they can compete. I want to get the government out of the business of selecting what the next great energy source is.”
According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) the federal government spent a total of $24 billion dollars on tax preferences and grants for energy in 2011, of which $16 billion was spent on renewable fuels and energy efficiency.
“You have a pretty mature industry,” said Pompeo, discussing the wind energy industry. “They’ve had the tax credit for 20 years. They need to stand on their own two feet.”
While incentives have existed since 1992, the use of federal subsidies for renewable energy has been increasing rapidly since 2006, surpassing fossil fuel subsidies in 2008.
Between 2007 and 2010 wind energy production in Kansas tripled, according to U.S. Department of Energy statistics.
Kansas, while not in the top 10 of total wind power jobs, is the top state for future wind energy growth, surpassing California (847MW) and Texas (857MW) in new wind construction.
The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) estimates that there are 75,000 domestic jobs directly related to the wind energy sector.
Page 2 of 2 - In August the AWEA announced that U.S. wind energy production topped 50 gigawatts this year, enough to power 13 million homes.
The research and production of other fuels have long benefited from federal incentives.
The extraction of shale gas by hydraulic fracturing, which has seen recent growth throughout western Kansas, has benefited from federal incentives for more than thirty years.
The Department of Energy financed research into horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing as early as 1975 and established tax credits for drilling in 1980.
“I understand why they want the tax credit; it’s free money,” said Pompeo. “I get it, but I think the wind industry should find its own way.”
Pompeo has deep ties to the oil and natural gas industry in Kansas, which may shape his position on renewable energy.
The Harvard Law graduate founded Thayer Aerospace (now Nex-Tech Aerospace) in 1997 with investment funds from Koch Venture Capital, a subsidiary of Koch Industries.
The Wichita-based Koch Industries is heavily invested in oil and natural gas extraction, refinement and transportation.
Following the sale of his interest in Thayer in 2006, Pompeo was hired as the president of Sentry International, an oil and natural gas equipment manufacturer.
During his 2010 campaign Pompeo received $80,000 from Koch Industries and its employees according to campaign report disclosures.
He received an estimated $255,000 from individuals and industries associated with oil and natural gas, according to information compiled by The Center For Responsible Politics, a non-partisan campaign finance data tracker.
This year he is reported to have received nearly $90,000 from Koch Industries and its employees and about $236,000 from companies and individuals associated with the oil and natural gas industry.
He is also a trustee for the Kansas Policy Institute, a Koch Industries funded conservative think tank.
“He is beholden to Koch [Industries] because he is funded by the Koch brothers,” said Democratic challenger Tillman. “I am for all forms of renewable energy.”
Kansas Senators Jerry Moran and Pat Roberts both have said they want to see the tax credits extended, citing the increase in wind power manufacturing jobs in the state.