Renewable energy was given little attention during the first televised debate between Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama.
But Solyndra – the failed thin-film PV manufacturer that has become synonymous with what critics believe are misguided investments in solar by the Obama administration – received a specific mention from Romney as the two sparred over the topic of subsidies and incentives for both renewable energy and fossil fuels.
‘In one year, you provided $90 billion in [tax] breaks to the green energy world,’ Romney told Obama, later naming Solyndra as one of the ‘losers’ to receive such funding. ‘Now, I like green energy as well, but that's about 50 years' worth of what oil and gas receives.’
Following Romney's comments, Obama did not directly defend his administration's investments in renewable energy, though he had reiterated his support of solar during an earlier debate statement.
‘On energy, Governor Romney and I â�¦ both agree that we've got to boost American energy production, and oil and natural gas production are higher than they've been in years,’ he said. ‘But I also believe that we've got to look at the energy sources of the future, like wind and solar and biofuels, and make those investments.’
In response, Romney stated that the levels of oil and gas production have risen in spite of Obama's policies, which he characterized as unfriendly to producers of these energy sources.Â ‘And, by the way, I like coal,’ he added. ‘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.’
Solyndra indirectly came up once again during the debate's final moments, when Romney stated that ‘about half’ of the renewable energy companies receiving government funding have failed.
‘A number of them happened to be owned by people who were contributors to your campaigns,’ he added.
Numerous congressional investigations over the past year have focused on whether Solyndra's Department of Energy loan guarantee was improperly received due to the involvement of Obama campaign donor George Kaiser, whose foundation held a stake in Solyndra. The Republican leadership of the House of Representatives' Energy and Commerce Committee has repeatedly insisted that laws were broken – assertions that have been disputed by Democratic lawmakers.
The next debate, featuring Vice President Joe Biden and Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan, will be held Oct. 11. Stay tuned to solarindustrymag.com for continuing coverage as the presidential election approaches.