Chamber chapters urge Obama, Romney to pledge support for clean energy

A coalition of Chamber of Commerce chapters want President Obama and GOP candidate Mitt Romney to take a pledge emphasizing federal support for the clean-energy industry.

The 240-chapter Chambers for Innovation and Clean Energy sent a letter to the candidates Tuesday urging them to “take a stand and prioritize clean energy as an economic development solution.”

In the letter, the group highlighted a Bloomberg New Energy Finance study that said global clean-energy investment hit a record $280 billion in 2011. It said removing federal support for such technology would cost the nation a share of the market, squandering jobs and economic development in the process.

“The winner of this presidential race will have an important choice to make,” Diana Doucette, the coalition’s executive director, said in a Tuesday statement. “We can either make clean energy a top priority and grow our local economies around clean energy manufacturing, construction, and high-tech development, or cede our global technological leadership to other nations.”

The Chambers for Innovation and Clean Energy seeks to help local chambers of commerce understand clean energy technology and its potential for economic development.

Both candidates have said they back clean energy, but Obama has been more vocal about his support for the industry, while Romney has championed expanded domestic fossil fuel development.

Romney has said increasing supplies of cheap fossil fuel sources, such as natural gas and coal, will spark an economic recovery. He says Obama's focus on clean energy has stunted that process by sending taxpayer dollars toward higher-cost technologies.

Obama has said federal support for clean technology is necessary to ensure the domestic firms maintain a piece of a growing global market, where foreign competitors heavily subsidize their clean-energy sectors.

The president has touted solar power in swing states such as Nevada. He also has lauded wind power in campaign battlegrounds Iowa and Colorado, which host as many as 7,000 and 5,000 jobs in the wind-energy sector, respectively.

The Obama campaign views wind as a winning issue for the president, as he supports extending a 2.2 cent per kilowatt-hour incentive for wind-power production. Romney, on the other hand, wants to let it end as scheduled on Dec. 31.

The administration also has fast-tracked several federal solar and wind projects in recent months.

Though renewable energy is a portion of Romney’s energy blueprint, the GOP candidate has largely focused his policy on opening federal onshore and offshore lands to oil-and-gas production.

He also has slammed Obama energy and spending policies, bringing up now-bankrupt solar panel maker Solyndra — which got a $535 million federal loan guarantee from a Department of Energy stimulus program — in a campaign advertisement.

Romney and congressional Republicans have repeatedly criticized the administration for Solyndra. They say the experience showcases that government intervention in the energy market is unwise, and that renewable energy is not ready to compete on a cost basis with fossil fuel.

Republicans also have tried to portray the Solyndra loan guarantee as a political favor to Obama campaign supporters, though an 18-month House investigation did not indicate that was the case.

This story was updated at 4:19 p.m.