DENVER — Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign has been savaging what it calls President Barack Obama’s “unhealthy” obsession with “green jobs.” The Republican challenger criticizes the government program that propped up solar manufacturer Solyndra, and he mocks Obama’s vision of a boom in employment, citing a European study to argue that new solar or wind-energy positions would destroy jobs elsewhere.
But when a campaign spokesman said last week that Congress should let a tax break for wind energy producers expire at the end of the year, some Republicans were concerned the candidate had gone too far.
Republican Rep. Tom Latham, R-Iowa, noting that nearly 7,000 Iowans work in the wind industry, assailed the Romney campaign for “a lack of full understanding of how important the wind energy tax credit is for Iowa and our nation.” Iowa’s senior senator, Chuck Grassley, told reporters he didn’t believe Romney really opposed the extension, and he joined five other GOP lawmakers in voting for it in the Senate Finance Committee.
The Obama campaign quickly organized conference calls for reporters and circulated fact sheets showing the deep support the credit has in such swing-voting states as Iowa, Colorado and Nevada.
Obama will appear in Denver and western Colorado today to promote his economic plan, and the wind tax credit may well come up. Colorado is home to several major wind energy developers and wind turbine manufacturing facilities, including Vestas Wind Systems in Windsor, which employ about 6,000 workers statewide. In January, Denmark-based Vestas announced a company-wide reorganization after missing profit targets. At that time, company officials said major workforce reductions in the U.S. were not part of the plan, though if the production tax credit wasn’t renewed, the company may be forced to cut employees in the U.S.
The backlash on the wind tax issue shows the risks Romney takes in targeting a fast-growing and popular industry that Obama has embraced. However, Romney’s aides argue the campaign is just making a principled economic argument against excessive government interference in the marketplace — one that the conservative movement, which Romney has struggled to win over, has praised.