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Aug 10, 2012, 05.56 AM IST | Source: Reuters

Obama knocks Romney on renewable energy, tax shelter

USA-CAMPAIGN-OBAMA:Obama knocks Romney on renewable energy, tax shelter

By Jeff Mason

PUEBLO, Colorado (Reuters) - President Barack Obama, trying to blunt rival Mitt Romney's attacks on his economic record, accused the Republican on Thursday of promoting policies that would hurt renewable energy and cost jobs in important political swing states.

On the second day of a tour through Colorado, a politically divided state that could be key in deciding the November 6 election, Obama portrayed federal tax credits for the wind industry as a critical economic necessity that Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, would nix.

"At a moment when homegrown energy - renewable energy - is creating new jobs in states like Colorado and Iowa, my opponent wants to end tax credits for wind energy producers," Obama told a crowd of some 3,500 people at the Colorado State Fairgrounds in Pueblo.

The industry supports 5,000 jobs across Colorado, and 37,000 jobs would be at risk nationwide without the credits, he said.

"It's time to stop spending billions in taxpayer subsidies on an oil industry that is already making a lot of profit," Obama said. "Let's keep investing in new energy sources that have never been more promising."

The White House has made helping the renewable energy sector a centerpiece of Obama's first term in office, but the effort has created some problems for the D e mocratic president.

The collapse of Solyndra, a solar panel company, not long after it received a $535 million loan through Obama's economic stimulus package prompted several investigations and allegations that Obama was wasting taxpayer money.

The president did not mention Solyndra in his speech. Romney's campaign, in a rebuttal statement, said the former private equity executive supported wind power but not big subsidies.

"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," said Romney spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg.

"Governor Romney will instead 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."

The state of the U.S. economy is the dominant issue for voters this year, and Romney has accused Obama of not doing enough to address unemployment, which remains stuck above 8 percent.

Obama counters that Romney's support for tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and his opposition to government support for the once-struggling auto industry prove that his economic vision would not help spur sustainable growth.

TRADING ACCUSATIONS

Meanwhile, Obama's team stepped up its calls for Romney to release more of his tax returns than the two years of documentation that he has released, continuing to suggest that Romney - who has an estimated fortune of up to $250 million - has something to hide regarding his finances.

Obama's campaign has questioned whether Romney used tax shelters to lower his tax rate far below what most Americans pay, a claim that feeds Democrats' narrative that Romney is out of touch with middle-class people.

On Thursday, Obama's team also cited an opinion piece by two tax analysts on CNN's website that described how Marriott - and Romney, as the head of the hotel company's audit committee - used a complex strategy to avoid paying millions of dollars in taxes.

While Obama "has fought for tax reforms that would eliminate special loopholes for the wealthiest and large corporations, it's clear Mitt Romney is quite comfortable exploiting them," Obama spokesman Ben LaBolt said in a statement.

Henneberg called the attack "dishonorable and dishonest," adding that "since Obama can't run on record unemployment, falling incomes and massive debt, he has decided to run a dirty campaign."

(Additional reporting by Salimah Ebrahim in Washington; Editing by David Lindsey and Doina Chiacu)

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