By Ben Geman - 10/12/12 03:29 AM EDT
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the GOP’s vice president hopeful, called the White House stimulus law’s energy programs “green pork” during Thursday’s debate, while acknowledging that he sought funding under the programs for his state.
Ryan, battling Vice President Biden, bashed “$90 billion in green pork to campaign contributors and special interest groups” in describing the array of stimulus funding for green energy and efficiency programs.
“The vice president was in charge of overseeing this,” Ryan said, criticizing “crony capitalism and corporate welfare.”
But Biden defended the stimulus law, and pointed out that Ryan in 2009 requested funding from Energy Secretary Steven Chu for a pair of organizations in his state.
“I love that. I love that. He writes ... the Department of Energy a letter saying the reason we need this stimulus [is] it will create growth and jobs,” Biden said at the debate at Centre College in Kentucky.
Ryan defended seeking the money even as he has bashed the stimulus. “We advocated for constituents who were applying for grants. It’s what we do. We do that for all constituents,” Ryan said.
He also lobbed other attacks on energy. “Was it a good idea to spend taxpayer dollars on electric cars in Finland or on windmills in China?” Ryan said.
Ryan did not provide specifics on that charge in the rapid-fire back-and-forth with Biden. But critics, including some Democrats, have attacked a grant program for building green power projects because some of the suppliers have been Chinese companies. The power projects themselves are in the United States.
Ryan’s line about “electric cars in Finland” refers to an Energy Department loan the Obama administration approved for Fisker Automotive under a program created in a bipartisan 2007 energy law, not the stimulus.
The company is building electric cars in Finland, but Energy Department officials have defended the project by noting the funding was for U.S.-based engineering and design work.
The company was approved for up to $529 million in federal loans. But Fisker has been unable to access a substantial share of it because plans to build a separate car model in the U.S. — which accounts for the majority of the money approved — haven't gotten off the ground. More on that here.
The stimulus, meanwhile, has faced GOP criticism over the failure of the solar company Solyndra, which received a $535 million Energy Department loan guarantee in 2009, as well as the bankruptcy of Abound Solar and woes facing some other companies.
A lengthy probe of Solyndra by House Energy and Commerce Committee Republicans unearthed information that was embarrassing to the White House, such as internal emails showing pressure to complete the deal despite administration concerns.
But it failed to substantiate Republican claims that the aid was a political payoff to a campaign bundler for President Obama who was among the company’s chief backers.
“All this talk about cronyism — they investigated and investigated and did not find one single piece of evidence. I wish [Ryan] would just be a little more candid,” Biden said in what appeared to be a reference to that probe, although he did not provide specifics about the inquiry he was referring to.
Administration officials say the overall green energy loan guarantee portfolio has been a success thus far despite the failure of a small percentage of the companies that have received federal backing.
Biden also defended the wider $787 billion stimulus package. "Moody's and others said that this was exactly what we needed that stopped us from going off the cliff. It set the conditions to be able to grow again," he said.