Romney debate attack on green energy, says Obama picks ‘losers’

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Under attack

Mr. Obama in recent months has voiced support for more domestic oil and natural-gas drilling as he seeks to blunt criticisms that he is opposed to those fuels. One of his latest campaign commercials mentions “clean coal.”

But Mr. Romney and running mate Paul Ryan have pointed out that the president has not promoted new drilling or gotten the Keystone XL pipeline up and running despite the thousands of jobs it is projected to create.

Coal, gas and oil companies and related groups have spent tens of millions of dollars in political-season advertising promoting their fuels, while other commercials have attacked Mr. Obama for favoring alternative sources such as wind and solar over traditional fossil fuels.

They also cite, as Mr. Romney did during the debate, the dramatic drop in oil and gas production on federal lands since Mr. Obama took office in 2009. Overall domestic production of both fuels is up, a fact that Mr. Obama and other administration officials frequently reference.

The increase, however, has come almost entirely on private lands, where the federal government has little ability to curtail drilling. Mr. Romney criticized the president for slowing oil and gas extraction on federal lands and promised to expedite it if he is elected.

“On government land, your administration has cut the number of permits and licenses in half. If I’m president, I’ll double them,” he said during the debate.

Those attacks haven’t diminished Mr. Obama’s support for federally funded renewable-energy projects; in fact, economic-stimulus package documents on the White House website say the $90 billion spent in the plan “laySpades the foundation for the clean-energy economy of the future.”

Hitting back

After being criticized for his lack of combativeness during the debate, Mr. Obama turned up the intensity at a campaign event in Denver on Thursday, blasting Mr. Romney’s energy plan and strongly defending his policy on green investments.

“We’ve got a better plan” than Republicans, Mr. Obama said. “We keep investing in wind and solar and clean coal, and the good jobs that come with them; where farmers and scientists harness new biofuels to power our cars and our trucks; where construction workers are retrofitting homes and factories so they waste less energy, and we can develop a 100-year supply of natural gas.”

The administration’s initial investment in renewable energy — the $90 billion referenced by Mr. Romney — breaks down into several categories: $29 billion for energy-efficiency improvements to homes and businesses; $21 billion for “renewable generation,” such as the installation of wind turbines and solar panels; $10 billion for modernization of electric meters and the nation’s electric grid; $6 billion for advanced car batteries; and $3 billion for carbon capture technology necessary for clean coal, among others.

Mr. Romney contrasted those investments in wind and solar — which, despite years of government help, produce a small fraction of the nation’s electricity — with the president’s drive to cut all subsidies for oil and gas companies. But Mr. Romney’s contention that the $90 billion equates to 50 years’ worth of support for oil and gas isn’t entirely accurate.

The sector receives about $2.8 billion per year; over 50 years, that would amount to $140 billion.

Several studies have shown that the industry has received far more than that. A report by DBL Investors, an investment and venture-capital company, examined nearly a century of federal support for oil and gas and found that from 1918 to 2009, the sector received an average yearly subsidy of $4.86 billion, though the figure often differs from study to study.

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