Why a Clean Energy Entrepreneur is Voting for Mitt Romney
This piece is the result of an argument I had with a friend over dinner a few weeks back. He’s asked to remain anonymous, and despite some misgivings (mostly that people will mistake his position for mine) I’m going to share what he wrote. I’m going to call him Mike. Mike is a true clean energy entrepreneur, starting way back with a fuel cell start-up in the late 1990s, he’s run a venture capital firm, been an executive at a solar company and founded another solar company. I can vouch for him – he’s long and deep in the clean energy business.
Honestly, when he laid this out for me over dinner I was pretty much stunned (despite knowing he has family roots tied to the GOP). Mike is coming up on two decades in clean energy, he understands the climate story, he understands the correlation between hydrocarbon dependence and limits on growth, and most of all he understands the challenges in building in the emerging energy-tech industry. I had assumed that for whatever the balance of the issues were he couldn’t possibly be on board for the presidential candidate who made global warming implications a convention punch-line, who has said that he believes that there is no place for clean energy subsidies and who has defined the path forward to be “extract as much fossil fuel as we can as fast as we can.”
I’m fascinated to see what people think about Mike’s view (and it is just a view, as he, like I do, lives in a state where there is zero question about his vote affecting the electoral college).
Again, these are Mike’s views, not mine (for what it’s worth I view energy and climate as decisively more important than Mike views fiscal management, I think fiscal responsibility belongs with Congress, I remain entirely unclear on how Romeny’s fiscal plan is better than Obama’s, and the world we live in is changing so fast that I don’t think we have any clue what skill sets will be most important for the next four years – now I can get flamed by both sides). I assure you he is very much a real person, but wants to remain anonymous to protect his ability to collaborate with others in clean energy circles that will hold the view (as I do) that a Romney Presidency is an existential threat to the emerging clean energy industries.
Here’s what Mike wrote:
This Halloween is particularly scary for me. There is a demon inside me tormenting my soul. I am a serial renewable energy entrepreneur and I am voting for Mitt. Hear me out. Obviously Obama would invest more in promoting renewables and that would be good for me and my business in the next five to ten years. If Mitt is elected, I may have to find a new job. But as an entrepreneur I live with that fear every day of my life. I am constantly balancing the bi-polar forces of planning for the next phase of company growth while simultaneously contemplating contingency plans in the case something disastrous happens to my business and precious cash flow evaporates.
Why am I in renewables in the first place? I have always wanted to do something meaningful and to me that means taking care of the earth and leaving the world a better place for my kids. I also want to make money in business. My objective for the last 20 years has been to achieve both goals through building renewable energy businesses. That is my own personal logic and game plan, no matter how flawed.
Which brings me to the 2012 Halloween election demons. Obama would continue to stimulate my industry and I may even make a little money in my industry with another 5 to 10 years of subsidies. That appeals to my personal sense of greed and self-gratification. But I see very troubling trends at work right now with regard to the financial viability of our government. So troubling we cannot wait another 4 years to address them. Obama has had four years to address our federal budget and has made very little progress.
The US Government is an extraordinarily complex and large organization. It is insightful to think about our federal government like an organization – a company with a budget and a management team. In 2011, the US Federal Government Budget was $3,598BN – a number so large, it is difficult to comprehend. Add to the size complexity that, for the last 236 years, our CEO has changed every four or eight years (20/44 presidents have served 2 terms), our CFO is made of 530 Reps and Senators who care only about the next election, our legal team is of 9 Supreme Court judges, and we are funding our organization by borrowing from our enemies and asking 53% of our shareholders to fund the organization while 47% pay nothing. To repeat, the US Government is an extraordinarily complex and large organization.
Like any organization, the U.S. government has a P&L and elections are proxy votes for appropriations on the P&L (READ: BUDGETS). For instance, if we elect Obama, the line item on the P&L for renewable energy subsidies will be a lot larger than if Romney were elected. The Federal Government’s P&L/BUDGET is insane. Our country is racing towards a fiscal calamity (if you don’t believe me, watch this video made by a non-partisan accountant who explains the federal budget and do some research on your own: http://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/EW5IdwltaAc?rel=0).
In order for our country to turn it around, in order to create that world that is a better place for my children, in order to keep America out of the toilet, we need a leader who will explain this challenge to the American People and address it. We need a leader who understands how to manage budgets and P&L’s and can restructure our ailing organization. Guess who is one of the best people in the history of our country at that exercise?
Of course, being president is more than about managing the federal budget. But being president must include managing the federal budget. Obama has not been able to make progress on this issue and we cannot afford to wait another four years. He does not have the vision, skill set or internal imperative to begin to turn the aircraft carrier. Romney does.
For those of you who feel Mitt would be a disaster on social issues, just think about how far this country has moved culturally in the last 20-30 years. You have state governments trumping the Federal government on a variety of social programs. Defense is an issue – the military establishment is important, it is powerful and it is hard to understand but the candidates agree on many foreign policy and defense issues.
I have been a poor renewable energy entrepreneur since people thought renewable energy was just for crazy tree huggers. I can handle it a while longer or go find another job if I want to make money. It is hard to say and my cleantech colleagues might call me a traitor. But I am an American and I love this country and I am willing to suck it up to fix our problems which are significant. Mitt Romney is the right guy for where we are as a country and I am going to vote for him.