In last night’s presidential debate, Mitt Romney aimed to brand as wasteful spending the $90 billion portion of the 2009 federal stimulus package the Obama administration says was invested to “lay the foundation for the clean energy economy of the future.” Whether he thinks it was wasteful or not, he got his facts terribly wrong.
At one point in the debate, after Obama raised the issue of oil and gas industry tax breaks, Romney responded, referring to this stimulus funding: “In one year, you provided $90 billion in breaks to the green energy world. Now, I like green energy as well, but that’s about 50 years’ worth of what oil and gas receives.”
Let’s set aside the reality that not all that money has yet been spent, not all of it is meant for energy startups, and much of it takes the form of grants and loans instead of tax breaks. The most misleading line came later. During an exchange over education funding, Romney again mentioned the $90 billion figure, claiming that “about half” of the energy companies that benefited from this money have gone out of business.
Not even close. The Department of Energy reported that as of February, $23.3 billion had been outlaid in support of “over 15,000” clean energy projects. The implication that thousands of stimulus-supported companies have failed is more than just the “gross overstatement” the New York Times calls it.
Time Magazine’s Michael Grunwald today tweeted that the Romney Campaign has told him their candidate misspoke, and meant only to refer to the DOE loan program. (See: Can Energy Startups be Saved?) But even then, only three—Abound Solar, Beacon Power, and Solyndra—of the 23 recipients have failed.