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Debate: Obama Backs Green Energy, Romney Backs Black

Obama’s green energy policies and Romney’s preference for coal and tar sands oil were apparent in their first presidential debate in Denver.

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“And, by the way,” said Romney, “I like coal. I’m going to make sure we can continue to burn clean coal. People in the coal industry feel like it’s getting crushed by your policies.”

For years, the U.S. coal industry has objected to what it calls the Obama Administration’s “war on coal.” The coal industry claims that U.S. Environmental Protection Agency policies are blocking mining operations, causing coal companies to lay off coal miners.

But in fact, the coal industry’s percentage of power generation has dropped since Obama took office due to the rise of cheap natural gas, rather than to the polices of the Obama Administration.

Obama called for an end to government subsidies for oil and gas companies, saying, “”The oil industry gets $4 billion a year in corporate welfare. Basically, they get deductions that those small businesses that Governor Romney refers to, they don’t get.”

“Now, does anybody think that ExxonMobil needs some extra money, when they’re making money every time you go to the pump? Why wouldn’t we want to eliminate that?” asked Obama.

Romney responded, “First of all, the Department of Energy has said the tax break for oil companies is $2.8 billion a year. And it’s actually an accounting treatment, as you know, that’s been in place for a hundred years. Now…”

Obama broke in, saying, “It’s time to end it.”

Romney continued, “And 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,” Romney said. “And you say Exxon and Mobil. Actually, this $2.8 billion goes largely to small companies, to drilling operators and so forth.”

Romney indicated that under his plan to lower the tax rate on corporations, the oil and gas subsidy could indeed be cut. “You know, if we get that tax rate from 35 percent down to 25 percent, why that $2.8 billion is on the table,” he said. “Of course it’s on the table. That’s probably not going to survive if you get that rate down to 25 percent.”

“But don’t forget, you put $90 billion, like 50 years’ worth of breaks, into – into solar and wind, to Solyndra and Fisker and Tesla and Ener1. I mean, I had a friend who said you don’t just pick the winners and losers, you pick the losers, all right? So this – this is not – this is not the kind of policy you want to have if you want to get America energy secure,” Romney charged.

In the debate, Obama did not defend these investments in the electric car companies Fisker and Tesla, neither of which have proven profitable as yet, or in Solyndra, a California solar energy company that borrowed $535 million before it went bankrupt in August 2011.

Solyndra is now the target of a federal criminal investigation to determine whether the company was awarded the massive loan due to undue political influence, despite what critics said were signs the company was already in financial trouble.

Romney criticized Obama for these investments, saying, “And these businesses, many of them have gone out of business, I think about half of them, of the ones have been invested in have gone out of business. A number of them happened to be owned by people who were contributors to your campaigns.”

Romney mentioned Ener1, the parent company of EnerDel, maker of lithium-ion battery systems that received a $118.5 million energy grant in August 2009. In January, Ener1 filed for bankruptcy protection after handing six-figure payouts to top executives.

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