The post-debate analysis is in full swing, and while pundits are talking about Governor Romney’s aggressive manner and President Obama’s subdued performance, the real story is how many times Romney strayed from the facts. On energy issues alone, he not only distorted the truth but he also misrepresented his own positions.
It began when Romney said he supported clean energy. This passing remark came after he spoke at length about expanding oil and gas drilling and building the Keystone XL pipeline for dirty tar sands oil. It also came after he let us know: “I like coal.”
I am not surprised Romney paid lip service to clean energy. Nine out of 10 Americans say developing renewable energy should be a priority for the president and Congress, and that includes 85 percent of Republicans and 89 percent of Independents. And two thirds of Americans want to extend tax incentives for clean energy.
But Romney’s own positions would thwart the rapidly growing clean energy economy and the tens of thousands of jobs it creating. He wants to kill incentives for wind power—incentives that enjoy strong bipartisan support, perhaps because more than 80 percent of installed wind power comes from Republican-majority states. And his economic plan calls for cutting clean energy investments by 90 percent, down to just $1 billion in 2014.
Romney repeatedly criticized Obama for his clean energy incentives. But once again, his facts were wildly off base. He cited the $90 billion the Obama administration invested in renewable energy projects, energy efficiency measures for homeowners, public transit, and other stimulus projects, and tried to claim that clean energy received more government help than fossil fuels.
The historic record proves otherwise. A study of by DBL Investors found that the oil and gas companies have received $446.9 billion in subsidies (1918-2009) and the nuclear industry scored $185.7 billion (1947-2009). Up until 2009, meanwhile, the renewable sector outside of biofuels had gotten only $5.9 billion.
The $90 billion the Obama administration has invested in clean energy since then has already delivered amazing returns: wind power has doubled in three years, solar power has quadrupled in four years, and more than 1 million homes have received energy-saving retrofits. More than 150,000 Americans have jobs making parts for and assembling clean cars—hybrids, electric cars, and other advanced vehicles that weren’t even available 10 years ago. And consumers can find nearly 60 fuel-efficient models in showrooms today—up from 27 in 2009. These cars are putting more money in Americans’ pockets and helping American automakers come back from the brink.
Romney tried to ignore this success by saying half of Obama’s clean energy investments had failed. That’s simply false. While a handful of companies granted loan guarantees have folded, hundreds of other companies are succeeding. In fact, the failure rate for clean energy loan recipients was only 1.4 percent by the end of 2011.
When all the smoke clears and the conversation shifts from style to substance, voters will realize the clear choice before them. One candidate will keep America hooked on the same fossil fuels that have been polluting our air for decades. The other has presided over the largest increase in clean energy in our nation’s history and strengthened public health and environmental protections. Those are the facts and hopefully they will garner greater attention as we head into the next debate.