Paul Ryan takes on Obama, energy policies, in Colorado

LAKEWOOD, Colo. -- Colorado has long been an epicenter of the energy industry, with oil and gas harvested in its western slope, hydraulic fracturing in the northeast and wind farms producing energy on its eastern plains.

But vice presidential candidate Paul D. Ryan riled the crowd of a local high school Tuesday by criticizing President Obama’s energy policies and pledging to lift regulations and open the Keystone Pipeline, a promise that went over well with an exuberant crowd here.

“President Obama has done all that he can to make it harder for us to use our own energy,” Ryan said in a high school gymnasium filled with a crowd waving Romney and “Colorado Believes” signs.

“We will streamline the regulations, we will open up these resources so that we can create jobs here,” he said as the audience stomped its feet on the bleachers, creating a rumble. “We have our own oil and gas, we have nuclear, we have all of the above, wind solar coal, let’s use it.”

Both the Obama and Romney campaigns are dueling over energy Tuesday, with Obama in Iowa talking about renewables and Romney in Ohio talking about coal. Some in Colorado have criticized the Romney campaign for pledging not to extend a tax credit for wind farms – indeed, Vestas, a turbine manufacturing company that employs 1,700 in four plants in Colorado, said Tuesday it planned to cut 20% of its staff in Pueblo because the tax credit was expiring.

But in the Lakewood High School auditorium, located in Jefferson County, a swing county in a swing state that went for Bush in 2004 and Obama in 2008, voters seemed not to mind, chanting Ryan’s name, and giving him multiple standing ovations.

“No teleprompter!” one man in the crowd shouted, gleeful at Ryan’s seeming ease on the stage.

It was a stark contrast to Ryan’s first day on the stump, Monday, when protesters at the Iowa State Fair interrupted his speech and even climbed on stage.

But Ryan seemed in his element Tuesday, reminiscing about time spent in the Colorado Rockies with his family, making s’mores, climbing “14-ers” – mountains over 14,000 feet – and catching fish in the streams.

Ryan made references to his past, including time working at McDonalds, to criticize Obama, saying that Obama is “speaking to people as if we’re stuck in our station in life, victims of circumstances beyond our control, and that only the government is here to help us cope with it.”

He also referred to the biography of his running mate, citing Romney’s experience in business and turning around the Olympics.

Ryan also turned up criticism of President Obama, a tack that was also popular with the audience. Vice presidential candidates are often called upon to be attack dogs for their parties, and it’s a role both Ryan and vice president Joe Biden have had to fulfill this week.

“We’ve gone from hope and change to attack and blame,” he said, stumbling a little over his words.

“When we take a look back four years ago, we had a very tough economy and without a doubt President Obama inherited a difficult situation. He’s the problem – he made it worse. We have seen a failure of leadership -- a failure of leadership -- to get the economy growing,” he said.

Unemployment in Colorado is now at 8.2%, up from 4.7% four years ago. Denver has seen a slight uptick in its real estate market, but the region’s economy isn’t improving fast enough for voters such as Kent Saunders, 48, who brought his family to the rally.

“I tend to think its such a macroeconomic thing, its not something the president does alone,” he said.

Saunders, who works for a technology company, said that the news of expiring tax credits for wind companies didn’t bother him. The government shouldn’t be involved in giving companies wind tax credits to help stimulate the economy.

“I think private funding will take up the slack,” he said.

Other voters in the auditorium agreed. After all, Jefferson County is slightly more conservative than the other swing county in the Denver region, Arapahoe. About 37% of voters are registered Republicans, with only 31% Democrats and 32% independents.

“We should get rid of all of it,” said Don Rosch, 73, about the tax credits. “The industry should be able to stand by itself.”

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