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Romney steers clear of wind energy tax credit controversy in Iowa

Mitt Romney was campaigning in Iowa on Wednesday, but the presumptive Republican presidential nominee steered clear of his campaign's controversial announcement that he would end a tax credit for wind energy that remains extremely popular in the pivotal swing state.

During a speech at Central Campus High School in Des Moines, Romney repeated his standard stump speech refrain that calls for reliance on a diverse set of energy resources.

"We got to take advantage of all of America's energy sources," Romney said, launching into a list that included coal, natural gas, solar energy and wind.

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But Romney did not delve into his campaign's stated opposition to the wind tax credits that have provided a small energy boon in the state. 

The wind energy production tax credit will lapse at the end of the year unless Congress extends it, and Obama is pushing lawmakers to renew the credit. New wind project installations have fallen off sharply when the credit has lapsed in the past, which last happened in 2004.

The Iowa Wind Energy Association has estimated letting the tax credit expire could mean the loss of 37,000 jobs in the state, and prominent Republicans — including Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad and Sen. Chuck Grassley — have been vocal proponents for its renewal.

“Mitt Romney is virtually the only person in the state that thinks ending tax incentives for wind energy is a good idea,” said Navin Nayak, a spokesman for the League of Conservation Voters, in a statement.

But the Romney campaign has maintained that the wind credit is an example of unnecessary government subsidies. In a statement Friday, the campaign reiterated that he would "allow the wind credit to expire, end the stimulus boondoggles, and create a level playing field on which all sources of energy can compete on their merits."

The Obama campaign has looked to seize on the issue, releasing a Web ad last week that profiles the owner of a small Michigan wind farming business and argues the president's push for alternative energy programs has stimulated job growth.

"President Obama’s policies have allowed businesses in the energy industry to grow — and a loan supported by the President has directly helped Heron Wind produce two to three wind turbines," the president's campaign said in a statement. "President Obama’s all-of-the-above energy strategy is making America more energy independent by reducing our dependence on foreign oil and investing in renewable oil."

The president is planning a three-day swing through Iowa next week, although his campaign has not yet said whether he will address the wind tax credit while campaigning there.