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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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Obama’s Department of Energy also helped to finance other green energy companies that went bankrupt – after the firms gave big payments to executives, found an investigation by the Center for Public Integrity and ABC News.

The nonprofit Citizens Against Government Waste points to nearly 20 energy companies that received federal loan guarantees or grants that have had layoffs, losses or bankruptcies.

But Romney exaggerated the $90 billion figure that he says Obama put into green energy investments.

The $90 billion figure for government investment and tax incentives does appear in a Council of Economic Advisers document on the White House website and represents the financing available in the Obama stimulus package, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

Not all that money has been spent. The Energy Department received $35 billion under the act but has spent only $26 billion to date. Some of the green energy funds were appropriated during the Bush Administration, but not spent until Obama took office. And some funded programs signed into law by Bush, but not financed until Obama took office.

Much of the rest has been spent to lay the foundation for the clean energy economy of the future: energy efficiency retrofits in low-income homes; installation of wind turbines and solar panels; smart grid modernization; domestic manufacturing of advanced batteries, vehicles and fuels; traditional public transit and high-speed rail; research, development, and demonstration of carbon capture and sequestration technologies; job training; and Clean Energy Equipment Manufacturing tax credits that partner with private investment.

Environmental groups stress the contrast between the two candidates.

Frances Beinecke, president of the NRDC Action Fund, said, “The candidates laid out a clear choice. President Obama wants to invest in energy efficiency and renewable power while protecting our health. Governor Romney would bet our future on the fossil fuels of the past. This is a choice between responsibility and recklessness, and the choice is ours to make.”

Also head of the Natural Resources Defense Council, Beinecke was speaking in her role as head of the NRDC Action Fund, which works to “achieve the passage of legislation that jump-starts the clean energy economy, reduces pollution, and sustains vibrant communities for all Americans.”

Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, which engages in a “Beyond Coal” campaign, slammed Romney for his energy and environment policies and backed Obama.

“Romney, whose energy plan was written by Big Oil, said he’d double the amount of destructive oil and gas drilling on public lands and that he would approve the dirty Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. He attacked investments in clean energy and even flat out said that he ‘likes coal,’” fumed Brune.

“President Obama vowed to double down on the energy sources of the future, like wind and solar, and boldly stated that Big Oil does not need the $4 billion per year it gets in corporate welfare,” he said.
“Tonight’s debate only underscored what we’ve known for weeks now – the choice this November couldn’t be clearer, and the importance of this election cannot be overstated for the millions of Americans who want a secure climate future, a prosperous clean energy economy and clean air and water.”

Outside the University of Denver debate venue, several dozen youth demonstrators rallied to demand that the candidates explain their plans for addressing the destabilization of our planet’s climate.

The rally followed the delivery Friday by nine environmental organizations of 160,000 signatures to debate moderator Jim Lehrer urging him to ask a question about climate change during the first presidential debate.  

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