The third presidential debate, this one focused on foreign policy, took a detour to Southern California when the candidates argued about the auto industry.

While Mitt Romney defended his 2008 stance to “let Detroit go bankrupt,” he criticized the Obama administration's federal loans for Southern California electric-car maker Fisker and Northern California green-vehicle concern Tesla, which has corporate ties to the L.A. area.

As you'll recall, Fisker seems to be Justin Bieber's favorite car. Here's what Romney said:

We're going to have to have a president, however, that doesn't think that somehow the government investing in car companies like Tesla and Fisker, making electric battery cars, this is not research, Mr. President. These are the government investing in companies … I want to invest in research … But investing in companies? Absolutely not. That's the wrong way to go.

[Edited for clarity: See the original quote here].

Indeed, Republicans in Congress have been questioning $529 million in green-energy loans committed to Irvine-based Fisker by the U.S. Department of Energy.

Credit: Fisker

Credit: Fisker

Fisker has also secured $1 billion in private investment while tapping only $193 of that federal cash so far.

Elon Musk, the rich guy behind Tesla and Hawthorne-based (and heavily subsidized) rocket ship company SpaceX, announced earlier this month that the carmaker will start paying off its $465 million government loan early.

Romney has been critical of such public investment in so-called green energy, particularly after solar company Solyndra sunk with $535 million federal loan guarantees on-board.

In the case of these electric cars, it's an interesting position, given that the only people who can afford these six-figure beauties are those in (or near) Romney's own socioeconomic class.

Bieber's Obama-subsidized car?; Credit: @angiecrouch

Bieber's Obama-subsidized car?; Credit: @angiecrouch

Of course, taxpayers donate billions to a lot of industries, including corporate food conglomerates and ethanol fuel producers, through corn subsidies. That's a third rail, however, as Midwestern corn states are crucial to the presidential election.

At least Romney has been consistent, though: He doesn't like government support of so-called green industry. That's as loud and clear as Bieber's latest hit.

[@dennisjromero / / @LAWeeklyNews]

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