President Obama, challenger Mitt Romney trade attacks on coal, wind power
OSKALOOSA, Iowa (AP) - President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney sparred over energy policy Tuesday, adding state-specific issues to a contest otherwise focused on the weak economy.
Obama mocked Romney's stance on wind power while Romney accused the president of waging a "war on coal."
The emphasis on the economy continued, however. A new Obama television ad and Vice President Joe Biden assailed GOP budget plans to overhaul Medicare, cut trillions of dollars from domestic programs including education and lower taxes on high-income taxpayers.
Romney's camp replied with their own TV spot casting Obama as a danger to seniors.
In Iowa, a center of wind energy production in the United States, Obama noted that Romney once dismissed wind power by saying "you can't drive a car with a windmill on it."
"I don't know if he's actually tried that. I know he's had other things on his car," Obama joked, referring to the often-repeated tale of a Romney family road trip with their dog, Seamus, in a carrier strapped to the roof of the car. "But if he wants to learn something about wind, all he's got to do is pay attention to what you've been doing here in Iowa."
Romney, campaigning in coal-rich eastern Ohio, said Obama was misleading Ohio voters by claiming new jobs in coal producing regions. He also promised to make the U.S. independent from Venezuelan and Middle Eastern oil.
"By the end of my second term, I'll make this commitment: We will have American, we will have North American energy independence," Romney said at a coal mine in Beallsville. "We won't have to buy oil from Venezuela and the Middle East. We're going to be independent."
Standing not far from a bulldozer filled with coal and decorated with a sign that read, "Coal Country Stands With Mitt," Romney accused Obama of lying to voters in this coal-rich region.
"He (Obama) talks about how wonderful it is and how we're adding jobs in the coal industry and adding more coal," Romney said. "I thought, you know, how in the world can you go out there and just tell people things that aren't true. This is a time for truth. If you don't believe in coal, if you don't believe in energy independence, then say it."
The energy fight played amid the different interests of the candidates' respective audiences.
The federal government says between 6,000 and 7,000 jobs in Iowa are related to the wind industry and that the state gets about 20 percent of its electricity from wind. In a bipartisan vote last week, the Senate's tax-writing committee agreed to renew dozens of tax breaks for businesses like biodiesel and wind energy producers, provisions opposed by many conservatives but that also have won critical support from some Republicans, like Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa.
"Unlike my opponent, I want to stop giving $4 billion in taxpayer subsidies each year to big oil companies that have rarely been more profitable, and keep investing in homegrown energy sources like wind that have never been more promising," Obama told a crowd of about 850 people in Oskaloosa, where stacked hay bales and an old, red pickup truck provided the requisite rural backdrop.
Romney has opposed extending the alternative energy credits, but several Iowa Republicans - Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad and Grassley among them - favor the credits.
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