Romney's rhetoric differs from record as governor

ByABC News
September 7, 2011, 8:53 PM

WASHINGTON -- As governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney created a fund to invest in green energy, said alternative energy could generate jobs and approved bills allowing cities to build fields of solar panels.

"Now is the time to refocus its assets in such a manner that it can become a major economic springboard for the commonwealth by focusing on job creation in the renewable energy sector," Romney said in 2003 of the state's energy trust fund that year.

Eight years later, it appears Romney, as he seeks the Republican nomination for president, has had a change of heart.

In his new economic plan released Tuesday, Romney called spending on green jobs a waste of money and an "unhealthy" obsession by President Obama to reshape the nation's energy markets.

In 2003, Romney created the Green Energy Fund — a $15 million program designed "to provide equity capital, loans and management assistance to Massachusetts-based renewable energy businesses."

In 2011, Romney said the federal government "should not be in the business of steering investment toward particular politically favored approaches" and criticized the Obama administration's energy policies, particularly how it invests in alternative energy.

As governor in 2005, Romney also signed off on a bill allowing the city of Brockton, Mass., to turn a vacant and polluted urban lot into a field of solar panels.

Six years later, Brockton Mayor Linda Balzotti says, the field is an asset to the city that doesn't cost any local money.

"This project put the city on the map in terms of being on the frontier side of solar energy," Balzotti said, adding that when it was constructed it was the largest brightfield, a field of solar panels, constructed on a brownfield in the nation. "To this day … it generates power, it pays for itself."

Romney's campaign did not return requests for comment about his apparent altered position.

The Brockton Brightfield is just one of several renewable energy projects the state of Massachusetts helped fund when Romney was governor.

In 2003, Romney said spending state money to support alternative energy companies that build solar panels and fuel cells would create jobs.

This year, however, Romney's pitch has changed.

"To begin with, wind and solar power, two of the most ballyhooed forms of alternative fuel, remain sharply uncompetitive on their own with conventional resources such as oil and natural gas in most applications," Romney's job plan says. "Indeed, at current prices, these technologies make little sense for the consuming public but great sense only for the companies reaping profits from taxpayer subsidies."

Instead of backing polititcally favored forms of energy, Romney argues in his new plan, the federal government should channel investment "through programs such as ARPA-E, that seek to replicate DARPA's success in energy-related fields." DARPA is the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the office that helped create what became the Internet.

Research, however, shows that Romney and Obama may have more in common on this issue than Romney apparently realizes.

Obama is the only president who has dedicated any money to ARPA-E, the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, which was created without a budget by the America Competes Act of 2007 that President George W. Bush signed into law.

The agency remained unfunded until the Obama administration's 2009 stimulus plan put $400 million into the program. It received another $180 million in 2011.

ARPA-E funds projects to "develop transformation technologies" in order to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign energy, lower emissions and improve energy efficiency in every aspect of the U.S. economy, according to its website.