Romney Claims Government Support “Kills Solar Energy” — Another Major Flip Flop

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney was once a venture capitalist. So when he became governor of Massachusetts, he recognized the need to set up a Green Energy Fund (!) in his state to “to provide equity capital, loans and management assistance to Massachusetts-based renewable energy businesses.”

Today, with continued state-level support, Massachusetts is a leader in cleantech venture capital — competing with Silicon Valley in biotech, renewable energy, and efficiency investments.

But now, in his bid to join the Solyndra scare-mongers in the GOP fringe, Romney is claiming the federal loan guarantee program that helped leverage tens of billions in private capital will cause investments to “disappear.” In an interview with Charlie Rose earlier this week, Romney said the program “kills solar energy.”

When the president says, “I’m going to … put a half-billion dollars into my favorite solar energy company, Solyndra,” let’s pretend for a moment that it didn’t go bankrupt. Let’s just pretend it was successful. Here’s what he doesn’t understand. There are well over 100 different businesses, I’ll bet, in this country that are trying to develop new solar technology. When he picks one that the government gets behind with $500 million, the investments in all the others disappear, because no one wants to compete with the government.

He kills solar energy by having the government play the role of venture capitalist. You either believe in free enterprise and freedom and the American system or you believe in the European government-dominated system, and that system is a failed system.

That must be why, in spite of the loan guarantee program that helped many “first-of-a-kind” solar projects get off the ground, General Electric is building a 400-MW thin film solar manufacturing facility in Colorado on its own. Or why companies like Google are throwing tens of millions of dollars behind solar projects throughout the U.S., helping accelerate the solar market into another record year.

Yep. That loan guarantee program sure did kill solar investments.

There are a number of legitimate criticisms that can be made about the loan guarantee program — particularly regarding transparency of the decision making process. But experience over the last year shows us that the program (which, it should be noted, is over and done with) did not force investments to “disappear.”

In fact, after raising hundreds of millions of dollars from the capital markets in preparation for the largest residential solar project in history, SolarCity lost its bid for a loan guarantee post-Solyndra. But rather than drop the investment, the company was able to secure $1 billion from Bank of America in order to move the project. SolarCity’s Lyndon Rive said the investment wouldn’t have happened without the previous due diligence undertaken under the loan guarantee process.

“We’re extremely grateful to the Department of Energy’s Loan Programs Office, in addition to our partners, U.S. Renewables Group and BofA Merrill Lynch. Without this group, we would not have been able to make the economics of this project work.”

Romney, who has an MBA, constantly reminds us that he comes from the business world. But his BS in politics seems to be trumping that experience.

6 Responses to Romney Claims Government Support “Kills Solar Energy” — Another Major Flip Flop

  1. J Bowers says:

    Related good news from the UK.

    Solar tariff cut plan ruled legally flawed

    “Government plans to cut subsidies for solar panels on homes have been ruled legally flawed by the High Court.”

  2. Thomas says:

    This is just political spin that anybody with little sense can debunk. Unfortunately the harm is already done, because the public does not understand and does not care to understand what the loan guarantee is trying to achieve.

    Loan guarantee is not meant to replace VC funding, it is meant to help cleantech companies bridge the valley of death and build manufacturing capabilities, a space that has been vacated by VCs in cleantech.

  3. CW says:

    I don’t know how they do it exactly, but I feel that the kind of (mis)explanation that Romney offers is another example of certain type of brilliance that he and many Republicans have. It has to do with their uncanny ability to create simple, believable explanations or viewpoints that can be said in a quick sound bite that many will digest instantly and that reinforce to the point of dogma over time.

    As I learned through this blog, debunking dogmatically held myths is tricky though.

    The recommended approach seems to be to start with a focus on what you consider to be closer to the truth, explain why, and then state the myth and why it makes no sense. This way you don’t reinforce the myth unintentionally by emphasizing it upfront.

    It’d be stronger, to me, to have a little blurb upfront on the logic of these loans, the DOE approach and how it’s been successful. As I read this post, I feel like I want a bit more than “experience with loan guarantees shows they don’t inhibit investment” and an example of how the rigor of the program helped an unsuccessful applicant sell its project successfully in the private market. THEN show how the myth perpetuated by this guy is bogus, and even happens to be hypocritical in this instance relative to his previous actions when a governor.

    Hope this isn’t too critical. To balance, you should know Steven that I look forward almost every day to seeing your energy stuff, in large part because it’s generally positive and hopeful. Just trying to keep the discipline standard up given posts and learnings already acknowledged on this blog :)

  4. Donald Nelson says:

    Most national and high profile state conservative candidates can say virtually ANYTHING then go on Fox News and have it either explained away or backed up…. In my opinion, most of the political problems in our country AND the looming collapse of the Republican Party can be traced back to Murdoch’s empire.

  5. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Don’t worry. The Tory bovver-boys and their Lib-Dem fags will be back. Like the Right everywhere they view renewables as the enemy, and will continue to act with lethal intent to destroy them, piece by piece, so as not to stir up too much resistance.

  6. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    A lie endlessly repeated becomes accepted as a truth, particularly by the intellectually challenged, ignorant and ideologically zealous, the Right’s ‘heartland’.