First of all, the $90 billion was part of 2009’s $787 stimulus package, but not all of it has been spent and not all of it went to companies or individuals. As the Post’s Juliet Eilperin and Steven Mufson reported, it was “spread widely”:

About $3 billion went to carbon capture and storage projects needed to make coal “clean,” a goal Romney shares; about $11 billion went to energy efficiency; about $5 billion went to clean up old nuclear weapons sites; about $4 billion went to modernizing the electricity grid; and about $2 billion went to research and development, which Romney has also supported. DOE has a breakdown here.

Furthermore, Romney’s assertion that half the companies backed by the DOE’s loan program have gone out of business is, as the Times’s John Broder put it, “a gross overstatement”:

Of nearly three dozen recipients of loans under the Department of Energy’s loan guarantee program, only three are currently in bankruptcy, although several others are facing financial difficulties.

It’s too bad that the candidates weren’t more forthcoming about the details of their energy plans or their positions on climate change and public lands, and that Lehrer did nothing to draw them out. It’s not surprising, of course, but that does little to soothe the sense of disappointment that many in the media legitimately feel.

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Curtis Brainard is the editor of The Observatory, CJR's online critique of science and environment reporting. Follow him on Twitter @cbrainard.