Ryan Misfires On Green Stimulus Accusations

Climate change never came up, marring an otherwise solid performance by vice presidential debate moderator Martha Raddatz.

Energy? It arose only when Rep. Paul Ryan tried to use it to attack President Obama’s stimulus program. Weirdly, the Republican veep nominee didn’t just say “Solyndra, Solyndra, Solyndra, Solyndra” — the word was never uttered — which might have struck many viewers as odd, but would have been a piercingly effective dog whistle for folks opposed to government support for clean energy, and would have kept Ryan out of fact-check trouble.

paul ryan

image via Romney for President

Instead, Ryan blasted the administration for “$90 billion in green pork to campaign contributors and special interest groups.”

(Green pork? Chili verde?)

Vice President Joe Biden said this was sound spending, necessary to keep the economy “from going off the cliff.”

“It was a good idea,” Biden said.

To which Ryan rejoined: “Was it a good idea to spend taxpayer dollars on electric cars in Finland, or on windmills in China?”

First big problem with that gibe disguised as a question: Fisker didn’t get money from the stimulus! It got a loan (a direct loan, not a Solyndra-style loan guarantee) through the Department of Energy’s Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing program. You know, the one enacted and funded under George Bush.

And as for the cars being built in Finland, we went over this largely bogus story last year, when ABC thought it had some kind of big scoop. Yes, the Karma manufacturing went to Finland – as was planned all along. But before they started building it they had to develop the tools, equipment and manufacturing process, and that happened here, in the good old USA, with 169 million in loan dollars. It helped pay the salaries of up to 700 employees in Irvine, Calif. (And, by the way, the DOE cut Fisker off at $193 million, far short of the $529 million it had been awarded, when the company ran into trouble getting a Delaware plant ready to build a hybrid called Atlantic.)

Onto the windmills-in-China claim: PolitFact asked the American Wind Energy Association if any Chinese wind turbines had been paid for using stimulus dollars. The AWEA said yes, some had been. Six turbines.

Now, if it were six out of 10 total, that would be a lot. If it were six out of 100 total, that would be not very many. But in fact, it was six out of around 12,000 turbines installed over a three-year period. PolitiFact said that’s “less than 1 percent,” which is true, but not very precise: It’s 0.05 percent – one-twentieth of one percent.

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.

  • George Voll

    Maybe Ryan should have brought up A123 battery and Think Automotive.

    • Pete Danko

      Biden probably would have said something like: “Well, look, it’s tough, Congressman, when Republicans like you and Indiana’s Republican governor Mitch Daniels are writing and asking for money from Washington. Think got some and I know Gov. Daniels felt very strongly that was a company that had a chance to do good things in Indiana — just as A123 continues to, despite some struggles, do good things in Michigan, employing hundreds of people in good-paying jobs. But, I know, it’s tough that we you weren’t able to get all the stimulus money you were seeking.”