Fox News is raising the red herring of Solyndra to attack President Barack Obama's proposal for an alternative vehicle research fund as a potential waste of “taxpayer dollars.” But the proposal would be funded by existing fees on oil and gas companies and has received bipartisan support for its potential to improve our energy security.
The government currently collects over $10 billion a year in fees from oil and gas companies drilling on federal lands. In his 2013 State of the Union address, President Obama proposed directing $200 million of that, or a total of $2 billion over 10 years, toward research into alternative transportation technology including vehicles that can run on electricity, biofuels or natural gas. The program would aptly be named the “Energy Security Trust,” as it would work to reduce our dependence on oil. A White House spokesman told Bloomberg News that the proposal “wouldn't add to the debt because money would be shifted from other programs.” Yet Fox News' America's Newsroom suggested on Thursday that the administration would be using “taxpayer dollars,” adding to the debt:
Fox News tried to tie the proposal to the bankrupt solar company Solyndra, which, as anchor Martha MacCallum noted, the network has devoted “a lot of attention to.” But the proposal that Obama referenced is for basic research and development of the sort that Republicans, including former presidential nominee Mitt Romney, have supported. That proposal was written by Securing America's Future Energy (SAFE), a nonpartisan group of retired military officials and business leaders that advocates expanding oil and gas production while transitioning to alternative energy structures. Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) have proposed similar measures.
Fox News is also distorting the track record of support for deployment, as opposed to research and development, of clean energy technologies. During the segment, The Weekly Standard's Steven Hayes claimed that green energy investments have a “significant failure rate,” citing a Heritage Foundation list of 34 green energy companies that have filed for bankruptcy after received some form of stimulus funds. But that list includes companies that received tax credits or small research grants, which have gone to hundreds of companies. Without a denominator, it is not a failure “rate.” The loan guarantee program that supported Solyndra currently has losses lower than what Congress anticipated, with 23 of 26 companies that received loan guarantees still up and running: