By Zack Colman - 10/01/12 03:10 PM EDT
An environmental group is hitting the airwaves in Denver, as the city prepares to host the first presidential debate, with a TV ad criticizing GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney for opposing a crucial wind energy incentive.
The $500,000 League of Conservation Voters Victory Fund ad buy begins air Monday and will wrap up Oct. 7. It spotlights a former employee of energy firm Vestas Wind Systems who lost his job in an August round of layoffs at the company's Pueblo, Colo., facility.
“I think Mitt Romney is not in touch with the little guy,” Chris Maese, the former Vestas worker, says in the advertisement. “He’s always been a supporter of Big Oil, he has friends that are in the Big Oil industry. That might be great for Mitt Romney and Big Oil, but try telling that to my kids.”
Obama has sought to exploit Romney’s distaste for the incentive in Colorado campaign stops, as the American Wind Energy Association says the industry supports between 4,000 and 5,000 jobs in the state.
Colorado’s Democratic Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet implored Congress to extend the tax incentive when Vestas slashed 30 jobs at its Brighton, Colo., location in August, just one week after the Pueblo cuts.
Many Republican lawmakers in both the House and the Senate are reluctant to pass individual energy tax incentives, pushing instead for a broader revision of the federal tax code.
That has put the wind industry in a difficult position, as it says the incentive is invaluable for the sector’s supply chain. The uncertainty surrounding the incentive’s future has been cited in layoffs as recently as two weeks ago, when Siemens announced it would eliminate 615 jobs in Iowa, Kansas and Florida.
Many conservatives say that means the wind industry is not ready to compete in the marketplace, and that the incentive drains government revenues.
Earlier this year, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he was “very confident” the incentive will pass the Senate in 2012. It is included in a $205 billion tax extenders package approved by the Senate Finance Committee.
However, Reid did not call the package for a vote before Congress recessed for the Nov. 6 election.
Romney's campaign, though, said the GOP nominee backed wind power. "Mitt Romney is a strong supporter of wind energy and the role it plays in the American energy supply," Amanda Hennenberg, a Romney campaign spokeswoman, told The Hill in a statement. She said Romney would "set the industry on a course for success and growth by promoting policies that remove regulatory barriers, support free enterprise and market-based competition, and reward technological innovation.”
This story was updated at 12:56 p.m.