For renewable energy, the 2012 presidential race reveals the downside of being championed.
President Barack Obama channeled a historic amount of money into green energy in his first term and made it a centerpiece of his jobs platform. As a result, renewable energy is big target for those taking aim at Obama.
“Because the Obama White House has made renewable energy an important part of the focus, it has become important for the other side to beat it up,” said Arno Harris, CEO of Recurrent Energy and board chairman of the Solar Energy Industries Association.
The brawl is at times colorful with quips from both sides about powering cars with windmills – or maybe dogs – on their roofs. Romney’s jabbed that Obama thinks he can turn back the rising oceans. And ‘Solyndra‘ has become the ‘Halliburton‘ of this election: a single company name that one party uses to try to encapsulate all they see wrong with the other.
Jokes and hyperbole aside, how far apart are Romney and Obama on renewables?
“There is a real difference in policy,” said Andrew Holland, senior fellow for energy and climate at the American Security Project. “Romney, and now Paul Ryan [Romney’s vice presidential running mate], are quite anti-renewable energy.”
Romney hasn’t abandoned renewable energy. But he’s also not pursuing it with the same “purposefulness,” according to Dan Berwick, director of policy and business development at Borrego Solar.
To Incentivize or not to Incentivize?
In his nomination acceptance at the Republican National Convention, Romney included renewables in the list of energy resources North America must take “full advantage of” to reach energy independence. However, Romney promotes few of the market incentives the industry now enjoys. He describes a more narrow federal role, one where funding goes to basic research.
Romney does push for removing regulatory barriers that make it hard to develop renewable energy projects – but would do the same for other forms of energy, as well.