Wind Power Grows Mighty in U.S., Becomes Campaign Issue

Read the full story in Slate.

Solar power and fracking get all the press, but wind has quietly become a major force in the U.S. power grid.

According to a new report from the Department of Energy, wind accounted for about a third of all new electricity capacity installed in the country in 2011. That’s not too far behind natural gas, which accounted for 49 percent of new capacity amid an ongoing boom in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

Overall, it still amounts to just 3.3 percent of the nation’s electricity demand—coal and natural gas dominate, followed by nuclear. But it has now been the second-fastest-growing electricity source in six of the past seven years, thanks in part to a renewable electricity production tax credit originally signed into law by George H. W. Bush in 1992.

Wind’s wild ride may soon come to an end, though. The tax credit is set to expire at the end of this year, and while the Senate has passed an extension, the Republican-controlled House has not.

Now the fate of the wind industry is becoming an issue in the presidential campaign. Mitt Romney on Tuesday toured a coal plant in Ohio to slam Obama for environmental policies that prioritize renewable energy sources over fossil fuels.

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