The campaign trail has turned green in the New Jersey governor's race as candidates try to outdo one another in their devotion to windmills and solar panels.
Republican nominee Christopher J. Christie said he wanted to create a 100 percent business-tax break for companies who want to manufacture windmills, solar panels, and other clean-energy products in New Jersey. He did not say how long the tax break would last.
He would provide them a ready marketplace by requiring solar panels to be erected on the state's landfills and 20 percent of the state-funded preserved farmland. And he would speed up the solar-farm approval process and personally recruit energy-technology companies to bring high-paying jobs to the state.
Democratic Gov. Corzine cut a ribbon Tuesday at the new offices of a West Windsor company that develops power-conversion technologies and has 30 employees. The company, Princeton Power System, has received state grants and loans.
He also announced a federally funded grant program that could help the state expand its use of renewable energy, urged unions and nonprofit groups to apply for federal grants for green-job training, and announced a federal grant to clean up wetlands in Jersey City.
And the candidate best-known for his green tinge, independent Chris Daggett, a former state environmental-protection commissioner, announced he had raised enough money to qualify for state matching campaign funds. That also ensures him a place in the two televised debates in the fall.
In a governor's race overshadowed by a recession and a clamor for lower property taxes, the environment and clean energy have become important issues - at least to the candidates.
New Jersey Sierra Club director Jeff Tittel said that's because a chunk of the undecided voters use a candidate's stand on environmental issues as a guide.
But Monmouth University polling director Patrick Murray said that, when asked about issues of great concern in the governor's race, only about 2 percent to 4 percent of his respondents named the environment or energy.
Tittel argued that the environment and global warming have become deciding factors for educated, liberal women of both parties. The Sierra Club has yet to endorse a candidate in the race. It already interviewed Corzine and Daggett and plans to speak with Christie next week.
On the trail last week in West Windsor, Atlantic City, and Ocean Township, Christie pushed his vision of New Jersey as a potential manufacturing hub for renewable energy, while Corzine, also appearing in West Windsor, was pointing to his record of supporting it.
Christie criticized the governor, saying little was done to save 400 jobs at a solar-panel plant in West Windsor.
According to a story in the Times of Trenton, the company shut its New Jersey factory last December partly because of the tight credit market and partly because it couldn't get enough state aid to stay. Company officials did not respond to requests for comment.
Christie argued that if the state had been more aggressive in its energy programs, it could have kept EPV Solar Inc.'s factory doors open. He also said that a Spanish firm, Gamesa Corp. Tecnologica S.A., decided to locate in Pennsylvania because the Rendell administration aggressively pursued it.
When Gamesa decided to locate in the United States, company officials said, the firm did an intensive study of energy policies and markets in all 50 states before deciding on a place for its windmill-blades factory, nacelles plant, and East Coast headquarters. So far, the company has invested more than $200 million in its Pennsylvania operations and employs 660 workers.
Since 2004, when Gamesa came to Pennsylvania, Corzine has written an aggressive energy master plan aimed at developing alternative-energy sources and reducing consumption. Christie's plan does not address consumption.
He dismissed Corzine's energy plan, saying, "The governor fills pages and pages with aspirational talk, but there's no follow-through."
By the end of the week, Corzine was running a Web ad to counter Christie's Web ad on the topic.