In the battle of talking points, insinuation and allegation that is the American presidential campaign, Republican candidate Mitt Romney has lambasted President Obama for his green energy policy, and again on Friday Romney said if elected, he would cease Obama’s funding of clean energy companies.
Romney has notably called out Fisker, Tesla, and Ener1 as being on a list of Obama-backed “losers” topped perhaps by now bankrupted solar panel maker, Solyndra LLC. Instead of backing one company or the other, Romney’s appeal is to funnel money into appropriate research, he said.
“Rather than investing in new electric auto and solar companies, we will invest in energy science and research to make discoveries that can actually change our energy world,” Romney said in a speech in Ames, Iowa. “And by 2020, we will achieve North American energy independence.”
So while Obama’s prior prediction of one million EVs and PHEVs on the road by 2015 has been criticized for looking like it won’t happen on schedule, Romney is countering with an even more ambitious multi-year projection that also must overcome many variables outside of his direct control. The last eight presidents in office have also made energy independence a stated objective, but to date it has not been accomplished.
Also in question is the future of federal tax credits for EV buyers. The present-day $7,500 credit is actually an endowment from the Bush era which Obama has embraced – just as were the carried forward automaker bailouts also begun under Bush – and Obama has said he’d like to see the federal plug-in credit increased to $10,000, perhaps made also into a point-of-sale rebate to increase and broaden its potential effect.
Among other federal initiatives to give a boost to hopeful alternative energy efforts has been the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Program administered by the U.S. Department of Energy. However a political chilling effect against such initiatives was underway even before Romney came to the forefront of the scene. The Detroit News observed on Friday that the $25 billion program created by Congress in 2007 has awarded just $8.5 billion in loans — including $5.9 billion to Ford and $1.4 billion to Nissan.
The Energy Department has long since been reported as feeling the political winds blowing that Romney is only now just fanning further. All this year it has refused to come to agreement with Fisker to reopen funding cut off in February. The Detroit News observed that the federal government has not made a new loan in the last one-and-a-half years to the automotive sector and in January this year withdrew a loan that was being considered for Severstal OAO, a Russian steel company.
But with his eye on the prize, Romney has continued to share his view that Obama has made terrible choices while seated in a place of public trust, spending other peoples’ money, and Romney has implied also that Obama has done so with insufficient care for the consequences.
“The government is now picking winners and losers — or in the case of this president — it’s picking losers and the private sector does a much better job,” Romney said in a June interview with the Detroit News, describing Obama also as playing the role of “venture capitalist.”
I would cease and desist sending out money,” the Detroit News quoted Romney as saying in the same June interview. “The idea of individual investments being made and guarantees being made to specific companies I think is a less effective course than the government investing in basic science and technology — and then letting private enterprise exploit the innovations.”
In turn the Obama campaign has fought back saying Romney ignores “his own record of using taxpayer money to pick winners and losers — some who were donors to his campaign — when he was governor of Massachusetts.”
What can be factually said in the most neutral terms? This is a time of strained polemics; a divided chapter in this country’s history that has seen divisions before. This episode is marked also by not a little apathy, disenfranchisement, distrust on all sides, with many standing on the sidelines not knowing what to think – or tuned out for various other reasons.
But many Americans are otherwise focusing on the upcoming election, seemingly pinning their hopes on the symbolic leader poised to take his place, as the political process teaches, and also human nature is wont to do. Included in those with a vested interest and hopes riding are those wishing to see a better day for clean energy and green transportation, and wondering how things will go.
Equally true is that regardless of who takes the office, and what plans or programs may be pursued, the underlying reasons for seeking alternative energy remain.
Do you have a view on which candidate would be better for the move toward renewable and sustainable energy? How much will it matter if one candidate or the other is elected? A lot? A little? Not at all? If you believe one candidate is better than the other, why do you say so?