In a wide-ranging speech Thursday to an appreciative audience in the southern Colorado city of Pueblo, President Barack Obama blasted presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney for being a "pioneer of outsourcing," supporting tax policies that would transfer trillions of dollars to the very rich at the expense of Americans making less than $250,000 a year and supporting deregulatory policies that would allow corporations to "run roughshod" over the American people. Obama said Americans have heard Romney's "fairy dust" story of trickle-down economics before.
While discussing the need for policies that create new jobs in the United States and not China, Obama focused on some specific jobs dear to the heart of his audience, those in the renewable energy sector.
And at a moment when homegrown energy is creating new jobs in states like Colorado and Iowa, my opponent wants to end tax credits for wind-energy producers. Think about what that would mean for a community like Pueblo. The wind industry supports about 5,000 jobs across this state. Without those tax credits, 37,000 American jobs, including potentially hundreds of jobs right here in Pueblo, would be at risk. Colorado, it is time to stop spending billions in taxpayer subsidies on an oil industry that's already making a lot of profit rarely been more profitable, and keep investing in a clean energy industry that's never been more promising. That's the choice this election. That's why I'm running for president.One of the companies providing those jobs is Vestas. The Danish wind company employs about 1,700 people in four Colorado cities. It became the largest wind energy company in the world in part because the Reagan administration said pffffft to the government support for renewable energy development that had begun under President Jimmy Carter:
Vestas has been a magnet for other companies—Vestas suppliers like Hexcel and Bach Composite," said [Eric Berglund, interim president of Upstate Colorado Economic Development]. "Vestas is using the Great Western Railway to ship. There would be a lot of impacts."Romney has been taking heat from some members of his own party for his adamant opposition to the production tax credit. It provides a boost to wind, solar and geothermal development by providing a 2.2-cent subsidy for every kilowatt-hour of electricity produced in the first 10 years of a company's operation. Although Romney continues to support billions of dollars of subsidies for oil companies, he says he wants to level the playing field and let the production tax credit expire at the end of 2012.
Hexcel and Bach both built factories in Weld County to supply Vestas, and they employ more than 200 workers.
"Employment in the clean-tech sector has grown by 7 percent a year for the last six years," said Tom Clark, chief executive at the Metro Denver Economic Development Corp.
If it does expire, Vestas says 1,600 of its 1,700 Colorado workers might have to be laid off.
Team Romney responded to Obama's comments on the tax credit with a bogus claim about wind power:
“Unfortunately, under President Obama’s approach of massive subsidies and handouts, the industry has lost 10,000 jobs while growth in wind power has slowed every single year of his term,” campaign spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg said in a statement. “Now he wants to ‘double down’ for another year on this failed approach at a cost of $12 billion.”In fact, wind energy companies are in lay-off mode, specifically because of fears from investors that the production tax credit will not be renewed. Many projects have stalled and this has had an effect up and down wind energy's supply chain.
But it's not true that growth in wind power has slowed every year of Obama's term. According to the American Wind Energy Association, some 10,312 megawatts of wind energy that were already in the pipeline are currently under construction in 30 states and Puerto Rico. That's a record amount under construction.
The previous record was set in 2009, when 10,000 megawatts were installed. The nation's total capacity of wind power just passed 50,000 megawatts—50 gigawatts—the equivalent of 11 typical nuclear power plants, 44 typical coal-fired power plants and enough to supply electricity to 13 million homes. In the past five years, 35 percent of newly constructed electricity-generating plants in the United States were wind-powered.