Romney Continues to Hammer Obama For His Clean Energy Initiatives

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.”

Reality Check

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?

Detroit News

  • Jeff

    “And by 2020, we will achieve North American energy independence.”

    Regardless of your political affiliation, I find that statement beyond funny. The American public is much too resistant to change for that statement to ever come to fruition. Many people out there still think of hybrid technology as new. It’s been around for over a decade…the “new” label can be ripped off. So, good luck, Mitt, trying to make it happen…if you get the chance.

  • ACAgal

    I was at a shareholders meeting of a company involved in researching the use of Hydrogen, when one of the speakers announced that it appeared the use of H, as a cheap fuel was still decades in the future. They company felt that the plug in hybrid battery/with generator assistance was the best, cleanest, and best method to use until a clean, cheap alternative is developed. That announcement probably was the number one reason why I put solar on my roof….as for the company, they are still in business, but because they do more research than product creation, I won’t mention the company by name. One of their board members is still investigating the use of sewage and algae for alternative fuels. If Romney things the game is research, he should really study where this and other viable products have been developed, first. I test drove the Volt, because of curiosity, mostly from hearing the Gear Heads and Sparky’s talk, as the ideas for the plug-in EV started to evolve. I really didn’t think it could work. I had a neighbor who put solar on his roof and converted his own car to EV, and I could see that I was wrong!
    My Volt is fun to drive, fast, responsive and comfortable. With the Volt, I just plug it in, in the garage: no pumping gas no waiting in lines, with 4miles/k, and a house that runs on the sun, inflation is not my biggest worry in life. Due to a life in CA, I now have to avoid the sun. I think of the Volt as a beautiful medical assist device too.
    Based on the research I did for years before buying a PHEV, I think Romney is doing a disservice to years of research already done, some funded by DAPRA. As for the failure of some solar companies, I suggest Romney looks to China and its attempts to eliminate competition from Germany, the USA, Australia and other countries

  • MrEnergyCzar

    He has to be against non-oil energy sources…..just follow and see how that industry money influences lawmakers….


  • Van

    As with many things political today, rather than discuss options, we find fault with the character and qualifications of those holding opposing views. I am not a liberal Democrat, so one might expect me to bash Obama for his efforts to spur a shift off of foreign oil. I do not. OTOH, I find fault with Bush 43 for diverting efforts to reduce dependence into “the Hydrogen economy.”

    When the Department of Energy was created, its purpose was to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Now after 40 years, our dependence is more than ever. Thus the Federal Government has pursued policies that accomplished very little. Obama has not opened federal lands to exploitation of potential domestic energy sources. We have not built any nuclear powered electrical generation plants.

    We do know a lot of crooks took government money for research and production of silly ideas, but we still do not have that high specific energy low cost second generation battery.

    It is time for leadership, not crony capitalism.

  • otter

    I don’t think the government should be using taxpayer dollars to support businesses that can’t make it on their own. Here’s a list of 34 of the companies that received taxpayer dollars that are faltering:

    The complete list of faltering or bankrupt green-energy companies:

    Evergreen Solar ($25 million)*
    SpectraWatt ($500,000)*
    Solyndra ($535 million)*
    Beacon Power ($43 million)*
    Nevada Geothermal ($98.5 million)
    SunPower ($1.2 billion)
    First Solar ($1.46 billion)
    Babcock and Brown ($178 million)
    EnerDel’s subsidiary Ener1 ($118.5 million)*
    Amonix ($5.9 million)
    Fisker Automotive ($529 million)
    Abound Solar ($400 million)*
    A123 Systems ($279 million)*
    Willard and Kelsey Solar Group ($700,981)*
    Johnson Controls ($299 million)
    Schneider Electric ($86 million)
    Brightsource ($1.6 billion)
    ECOtality ($126.2 million)
    Raser Technologies ($33 million)*
    Energy Conversion Devices ($13.3 million)*
    Mountain Plaza, Inc. ($2 million)*
    Olsen’s Crop Service and Olsen’s Mills Acquisition Company ($10 million)*
    Range Fuels ($80 million)*
    Thompson River Power ($6.5 million)*
    Stirling Energy Systems ($7 million)*
    Azure Dynamics ($5.4 million)*
    GreenVolts ($500,000)
    Vestas ($50 million)
    LG Chem’s subsidiary Compact Power ($151 million)
    Nordic Windpower ($16 million)*
    Navistar ($39 million)
    Satcon ($3 million)*
    Konarka Technologies Inc. ($20 million)*
    Mascoma Corp. ($100 million)

    *Denotes companies that have filed for bankruptcy.

    What a waste of taxpayer dollars when we are spending at a rate that is over twice that of Bush. With a 16 trillion dollar debt and four straight years of over trillion dollar budget deficits, we need to stop spending so much.

    I am looking to buy a hybrid car in the future, (very possibly a C-max), but Romney is right on this one.

  • Stan Smart

    I’m driving my 3rd hybrid car … just so you know where I’m coming from:

    Conservative Republicans are not against, and indeed actively encourage, government RESEARCH (including energy). What they are opposed to is “playing favorites” by giving money directly to companies for PRODUCTS. This creates a very biased system which does not benefit taxpayers, only the company owners lucky enough to get our money without earning it.

  • Brandt Hardin

    Obama has time and time again tried to champion Clean Energy Sources. Public access to real facts is being whitewashed by this rhetoric while conservative hands paint the Blackface on our President. Watch them mix and apply the paints to his face in a portrait of Obama being Bamboozed by the Far Right at

  • Pablo

    Neither the government should support a businesses that can make it on its own and is overly profitable – stop the $4 billion per year for the big oil.

    By your logic nobody should support babies and children because they can’t make it on their own (yet).

  • Pablo

    Right, stop the $4 billion per year for the big oil.
    And the subsidies for the big coal too.

  • Charles

    Romney, you’re a flat-out liar. There is no way we can achieve energy independence in the next eight years. None.

  • ACAgal

    You wrote down a lot of companies, but the majority of those listed did not file for bankruptcy. During this downturn investor money has dried up. In the case of the Volt (in the photograph), most of that car is made in the USA, parts included. Some of the companies you wrote about are doing a good job of producing power, and as for Obama being anti-gas and oil, drilling and production of those resources have increased. Your pump cost is going up because those resources are being exported. The policy to reward employers who exported jobs was in place before the current Prez took office. Just look at the list you wrote and FACT CHECK!