Romney’s $90 billion lie about green jobs and Solyndra

  • Published on October 4th, 2012

GOP kicks Solyndra and all solar energy companies one more time

Of all the lies in last night’s debate, I think the one that annoyed me the most was Mitt Romney’s massive, overbearing lie about green jobs.

He claimed that Obama had put $90 billion in one year into loan guarantees for green energy companies like Solyndra, and that half of them had failed. Leaving debate listeners to think $45 billion in taxpayer money had been lost. (Full transcript is on the next page.)

It appears that, as with so many things, this factoid is the result of a garbled post from the right-wing blogosphere. In this case, it’s a July post based on research by a Heritage Foundation intern that took every failing green energy company that had gotten any government money from any source and lumped them all together.

In addition to Solyndra, these  included:

  • Raser Technology, the now-bankrupt darling of Utah’s GOP Senator Orin hatch that got a Treasury Dept. grant
  • Beacon Power, which did get a loan guarantee and did go bankrupt (but has since been sold, so the government is getting most of its money back),
  • Tiny Thomson River, which only got a piddling $5 million for a Montana power plant conversion (which the Treasury hopes to recoup).
  • Mountain Plaza Inc., a Tennessee company that only got $424,000 as part of an EPA program.

Romney appears to have get his “half have failed” claim by:

  • Taking the 12 assorted firms the Heritage Foundation listed that did fail.
  • Making an apples and oranges mixup with the 30 firms that got loan guarantees in the Solydra program (12 is almost half of 30, even though the two numbers have nothing to do with each other)
  • Finally, he mashed that into the full $90 billion clean energy stimulus program.

The facts:

  • The actual dollar amount that went to the loan guarantee program: $16.1 billion. Not $90 billion.
  • The actual number of failures:  For the loan guarantee program, just 3, out of 30.
  • The actual cost to the taxpayer: Probably less than $2 billion by the time it’s all done. Not $45 billion.
  • And it was over 4 years, not one single year.

Far from being poured down the drain by failed companies, the$90 billion went to infrastructure and investment, so it created good jobs and led to long-term savings:

  • About $2 billion to Clean Energy Equipment Manufacturing to build plants that manufacture windmills and solar
  • $3 billion for research and development into capturing and sequestering carbon dioxide for “clean coal“.
  • $3 billion for job training for the green energy workforce
  • $6 billion to the auto industry to help establish factories to manufacture batteries for electric cars and other components of advanced vehicles
  • $10 billion for needed modernization of the electric grid
  • $18 billion for high-speed rail and mass transit
  • $21 billion for renewable electricity generation, including wind turbines and solar panels
  • $29 billion for energy efficient homes, including $5 billion for improvements in the homes and apartments of low-income households

Oh, and – guess what? The ARRA did hire teachers. $50 billion directly to schools, students, and worker training.

And what were the results of that spending? Stephen Lacey at Grist sums it up:

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Next page -> Read the full transcript

About the Author

Jeremy Bloom is the Editor of RedGreenAndBlue. He lives in New York, where he combines his passion for the environment with his passion for film, and is working on making the world a better place.
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  • Armando

    So only $2 Billion was wasted. What a relief!
    But the problem isn’t the amount that we know was wasted, but the fact that none of these industries make a product that can stand on its own two legs. So what if “green” energy production double if it is a minuscule part of total energy consumption and only exists because of wasteful subsidies!

    • Jeremy Bloom

      By your argument, coal, oil and nuclear can’t “Stand on their own two legs”, either. Oh, but those subsidies aren’t “wasteful” because… they go to corporations that are already massively profitable?

  • betina

    Very interesting!

  • Bob Wallace

    Romney complains about the government picking winners and loosers.

    Let’s see how well Romney and his solely-owned company Bain did….

    Out of 77 companies in which they invested other people’s money, 33 either failed or produced no earnings. That, my friends, is a 43% failure rate.

    Out of 77 companies in which Romney invested only 10 were really good investments. 70% of Bain’s earnings came from these 10 companies. And that, my friends, is only a 13% success rate.

    Of course Romney/Bain made money from the failed companies as well. They stripped money out of those companies, money that should have gone to the people who actually put up the money. But that’s how vultures operate, grab parts of rotting caucus.

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  • Fernando

    You really need to go back and recheck your facts and figures. Your numbers add up to $142B which makes your argument suspect at best. And, if your numbers are even remotely close to accurate, $90B or $142B for 100K jobs is a complete joke at best. Get your facts straight and get real about what the $90B could and actually should represent.

    • Jeremy Bloom

      So this is how you guys argue?
      – Start by just doing a basic stupid misunderstanding so you can say “Your numbers don’t add up”. It looks like you took my bullet-pointed list of the Clean Energy Program, which adds up to $92 billion, and you then tossed on top the figure from the next comment, which was that ARRA ALSO included (in a DIFFERENT program) $40 billion for education. OMG! That adds up to $142 billion! My argument is now “Suspect at best”.
      – Now, take another random number and completely blow it out of proportion. Yes, I did say we created “100,000 direct and indirect jobs in the solar industry.” Did you miss that last part – the part about “the solar industry”? It’s in a list of benefits. I didn’t have an exact figure for the number of jobs created by the full $90 billion program. But it takes a real genius to take one number for a small part of the program, inflate it into the total jobs for the ENTIRE program, and then say “Well, if that’s the number of jobs the program created then it was a complete joke at best”.
      – Then you have the effing nerve to tell ME to “Get my facts straight”.
      – Oh wait, you learned from the master – this is exactly the kind of crap Romney was pulling last night.

  • Sheila

    I was a bit upset by his attack on renewable energy. But why didn’t Obama set the record straight regarding the issue? I personally feel oil isn’t the complete and dominating answer. Energy diversity is. As long as the dollars are being invested into US owned and operated businesses that support renewable energy, it should not be an issue. If any of the money is going off shore, then that is an issue.