For the wind energy industry, the site of the first presidential debate could not have been more promising: Colorado, a leader in wind power and the home of several wind energy companies – including Vestas, the world's largest wind turbine manufacturer.
In August, President Barack Obama was in Colorado singing the praises of wind energy, stressing the urgent need to extend the production tax credit (PTC) and bashing his opponent, Mitt Romney, for his anti-PTC stance.
‘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 said on a campaign stop in Pueblo, Colo., home to Vestas' tower manufacturing facility.
"The wind industry supports about 5,000 jobs across this state," he added. "Without those tax credits, 37,000 American jobs – including potentially hundreds of jobs right here – would be at risk."
In fact, wind energy and the PTC have become critical wedge issues in the presidential campaign, especially in Colorado and Iowa.
What a difference two months make. Although the issue of energy surfaced several times during Wednesday's debate, mentions of wind power were sparse, and the PTC was entirely absent from the discussion. The scant support of renewables came in this statement from Obama:
"On energy, Gov. Romney and I – we both agree that we've got to boost American energy production, and oil and natural-gas production are higher than they've been in years," he said. "I also believe that we've got to look at the energy sources of the future – like wind and solar and biofuels – and make those investments."
While Romney also proclaimed his support for "green energy," he criticized Obama for making investments in the sector.
"You put $90 billion – like 50 years' worth of breaks – into solar and wind," Romney said. "Now, I like green energy as well, but that's about 50 years' worth of what oil and gas receives."
What Romney considers "breaks" and "green" are up for debate. Despite his assertion that he supports "green energy," Romney has made it clear that he is in favor of letting the PTC expire, which industry analysts say would lead to about 37,000 lost jobs throughout the country.
Instead, Romney said the money invested in renewable energy and cleantech companies could have been better used for other purposes.
"You put $90 billion into green jobs – $90 billion that would have hired 2 million teachers," he said.
Amid inevitable references to Solyndra and other U.S. Department of Energy loan-guarantee recipients, Romney pointed out that many of the cleantech companies supported by the Obama administration have folded.
"This is not the kind of policy you want to have if you want to get America energy secure," he said.
However, neither candidate mentioned the looming PTC expiration's effect on the job losses throughout the nation, which have totaled more than 1,500 since the beginning of the year and will only continue to mount if the PTC is not renewed.