Breaking down Obama's '$90 billion' green investment

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at Sempra U.S. Gas & Power's Copper Mountain Solar 1 facility, the largest photovoltaic solar plant in the United States on March 21, 2012 in Boulder City, Nevada.

In response to President Obama's calls to end oil company subsidies last night, Mitt Romney said the president gave a hefty chunk of green to green energy, "in one year, you provided $90 billion in breaks to the green energy world," said Romney.

That $90 billion number? That's right, sort of. It's the amount the White House made available to "lay the foundation of the clean energy economy" in the 2009 Recovery Act. That included a host of programs, covering energy efficiency to nuclear cleanup to job training, and, yes, some government investment.

Shayle Kann, who studies clean energy for Green Tech Media, says, "'breaks' is, I think, a pretty stretched definition of it." He says the $90 billion covers many years, not one year, and it hasn't all been spent. Some of the money is from programs approved by President Bush, though only activated under Obama.

Romney also said that about half the companies that received government money for clean energy had gone bankrupt. Kann says, no way, "I was thinking about it this morning, and I can come up with less than ten companies that've gone bankrupt since then." Less than ten, he says, out of thousands of companies that took advantage of clean energy initiatives.

About the author

Eve Troeh is News Director at WWNO-FM in New Orleans, La., helping build the first public radio news department in the station’s 40-year history. She reported for the Marketplace Sustainability Desk from 2010 to 2013.

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