Fact checkers say Republican nominee Mitt Romney rattled off two dozen factual misstatements in 38 minutes at Wednesday's presidential debate, several involved green energy projects in the stimulus bill.
The $831 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 — better known as the stimulus — has long been derided by Republicans as wasteful, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. A favorite target is the clean-energy programs.
Thus, Romney's assertions didn't surprise truth watchdog organizations. “As fact checkers, we’ve heard these claims over and over again," said FactCheck.org Deputy Director Rob Farley, NBC Bay Area reported. "So there wasn’t a whole lot new in last night’s debate. And we’re hearing these things over and over again in speeches and in ads.”
Piece of masterful spin
First, Romney brought up a point that Obama had “put $90 billion … into solar and wind” for energy projects.
Romney: 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?
It is fair to say that the 2009 stimulus authorized $90 billion for green energy, as Romney asserted. But the Times called Romney's claim "a piece of masterful spin."
FactCheck.org, a nonpartisan, nonprofit "consumer advocate" for voters, that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics, asked the Romney campaign about the $90 billion, and it referred them to a July 14, 2010, report on the economic impact of the stimulus.
But their own report disputed Romney's own statement, Factcheck said. The report said only about $21 billion went “for Renewable Generation, such as the installation of wind turbines and solar panels.”
Then, there's the former Massachusetts governor's claim about half of the clean-energy companies that have gotten money "have gone out of business."
As transcribed by The New York Times:
You put $90 billion into — into green jobs. And — and I — look, I’m all in favor of green energy. Ninety billion (dollars) — that — that would have — that would have hired 2 million teachers. Ninety billion dollars. And these businesses — many of them have gone out of business. I think about half of them, of the ones have been invested in, they’ve gone out of business.
A few recipients of the government funds have hit hard times, CNN's Fact Checks said. The most well-known of them is solar panel maker Solyndra, which received a $535 million loan guarantee from the Department of Energy. Two years later, in August 2011, it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
As The New York Times puts it, the bottom line, so far, is that only three of the 33 companies that received loans have failed — representing less than 2 percent of money budgeted.
$90 billion helped create or sustain jobs
He claimed Obama “put $90 billion into green jobs … that would have hired 2 million teachers," The Inquirer says.
“You put $90 billion into green jobs,” Romney said. “And, look, I’m all in favor of green energy. [But] $90 billion, that would have hired 2 million teachers.”
But that $90 billion included loan guarantees, not just grant money, and the government can’t hire teachers with loan guarantees, FactCheck.org said.
And the Los Angeles Times says the BlueGreen Alliance, a coalition of labor unions and environmental groups, responded by saying that the investments helped create or sustain at least 1 million jobs and leveraged private investment at the rate of $3 of private capital for every government dollar.
“These investments in clean energy, energy efficiency, transportation infrastructure, electrical transmission, and rebuilding American manufacturing have paid important dividends over the last several years,” said Executive Director David Foster in a statement. “They represented a significant down payment on America’s future competitiveness.
Bottom line for voters: Romney said a lot about the $90 billion in stimulus spending on clean energy — and very little of it was accurate, FactCheck.org said.
The New York Times added, "Mr. Obama has a good story to tell, and perhaps in the next debate he will do so – instead of allowing Mr. Romney to roll him with misinformation."