Biden and Ryan Mostly Skip Green Issues in VP Debate

Neither ticket is talking up the environment in the final weeks of the campaign.
Photo: Getty Images
Oct 12, 2012
writes about environment and energy for the NYT, Popular Science, OnEarth Magazine, and more.

In the first and only vice presidential debate of 2012, Joe Biden and Paul Ryan more than made up for the spark that was missing from the presidential debate last week, as they traded barbed blows over national security, healthcare and the economy.

Just like the lackluster presidential debate, however, last night's feisty exchange was conspicuously silent on the issue of climate change.

The VP candidates did at least graze the subject of America's energy future during a discussion of Obama's handling of the economic recovery.

RELATED: Al Gore on a Romney Presidency: ‘I Would Fear for the Future of Our Environmental Policy’

Ryan called theAdministration's green energy and efficiency programs under the stimulus package, "$90 billion in green pork to campaign contributors and special interest groups." He went on to throw out well-worn phrases like "crony capitalism" and "corporate welfare."

In return, Biden vigorously defended the stimulus bill, and pointed out that in 2009 Ryan had himself on multiple occasions, requested and received money through the program for two corporations in his district in Wisconsin.

"I am not allowed to show letters, but go on our website," said Biden, chuckling. "He sent me two letters saying, 'by the way, can you send me some stimulus money for companies in Wisconsin?' I love that, 'this is such a bad program' and he writes me a letter, writes the Department of Energy a letter saying we want money because it will create growth and jobs, in his words."

Biden went on to address the charges of crony capitalism by asserting that all of the Republican spearheaded investigations into the Department of Energy's loan guarantee program had turned up no evidence of wrongdoing.

"What the Congress said was, it was a model: less than four-tenths of one percent waste or fraud in the program," said Biden."And all this talk about cronyism—they investigated, investigated; did not find one single piece of evidence."

While admitting that he had requested stimulus money, Ryan forged ahead in his attack, asking if it had been a good idea to spend taxpayer dollars on electric cars in Finland or on windmills in China.

Ryan was referring to an Energy Department loan to Fisker Automotive, an American company which is at present only building electric cars in Finland, although all the engineering and design work is done at home, and a grant program for green power construction projects has been criticized for buying component parts from Chinese companies.

While Biden did not directly respond to these accusations, he added that only four percent of the  green jobs funded had failed to materialize.

Next week the debate spotlight will once again turn to Obama and Romney as they face off on global issues—an ideal opportunity to address global warming?  Yes, but that doesn't mean it will happen. 

More on green issues in the 2012 election:

Mitt Romney Will End Tax Credit for Clean Wind Energy

Obama Gets Green Love

Al Gore Weighs in on President Obama's Green Record, Fears for Environmental Policy Under a Romney Presidency

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