Romney criticized Obama for providing “$90 billion” in “breaks” for renewable energy, and compared that to 50 years worth of tax breaks for oil and gas drilling companies. Romney mentioned bankrupt solar panel maker Solyndra, troubled electric auto maker Fisker, and battery maker EnerOne – all recipients of Energy Department loans and or loan guarantees. Solyndra alone borrowed $535 million before going bankrupt. “This is not the kind of policy you want to have if you want to have America energy secure,” he said.
It’s true that some of the Energy Department’s loans and loan guarantees went to firms that failed. But Congress set aside a certain amount of money assuming that some of the Energy Department loan and grant recipients would fail because the technology wasn’t proven. The flops were embarrassing to the administration for a variety of reasons, and even some Obama administration economic officials felt that the government is not an effective “venture capitalist.” But from a policy point of view they are, so far, still well within the expectations for the program.
Also, the Energy Department program wasn’t designed to make America “energy secure,” which is a question of reducing oil use and oil imports. Instead, it was aimed at jump starting renewable energy, which is tied to electricity and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In some areas, the program has succeeded in spurring wind and solar industries and projects. It was part of the 2009 economic stimulus program and spurring jobs was part of the program’s purpose.