Solar power and renewable energy made cameo appearances at the third and final debate between President Barack Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney.
As was the case at early debates, both candidates professed their commitment to U.S. energy independence and the use of renewable energy. However, they continued to disagree about the appropriate role of government investment in renewable energy technologies.
When asked about the future role of the U.S. on the global stage, Obama called for the continued development of both domestic oil and gas and ‘clean energy technologies that will allow us to cut our exports in half by 2020.’
‘We're going to have North American energy independence,’ Romney agreed, in response to the same question. ‘We're going to do it by taking full advantage of oil, coal, gas, nuclear and our renewables.’
Although the candidates discussed Chinese trade conflicts, the issue of the solar trade war – and the recent tariffs applied to Chinese solar products by the U.S. Department of Commerce – did not specifically come up.
Obama warned that the U.S. may lose out to China in the renewable energy sector if the country does not prioritize certain investments. ‘If we're not making investments in education and basic research, which is not something that the private sector is doing at a sufficient pace right now and has never done, then we will lose the lead in things like clean energy technology,’ he said.
On the topic of investments designed to make the U.S. globally competitive, Romney reiterated his support for government-funded basic research, but drew a distinction between these types of investments and support provided to private companies.
‘This is not research, Mr. President,’ Romney said, criticizing Obama for his administration's investments in clean energy firms. ‘These are the government investing in companies, investing in Solyndra. This is a company â�¦ Providing funding to universities and think tanks, great. But investing in companies? Absolutely not – that's the wrong way to go.’