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Bain Capital doesn't know energy

August 29, 2012: 9:36 PM ET

keystone oilMitt Romney's private-sector experience didn't extend to energy.

FORTUNE -- Lots of talk here in Tampa this evening about how President Obama has blocked the Keystone Pipeline, which many Republicans view as a job-killing kowtow to environmentalists. Tad True, vice president at a family-owned pipeline company in Wyoming, says that Mitt Romney "understands the importance of pipelines," and that he'll make sure it is built.

No quibble with the last part, as Romney has promised to ensure "rapid progress on the Keystone XL Pipeline" and "pave the way for the construction of additional pipelines."

But it's worth noting that if Romney "understands pipelines" -- beyond how someone like me "understands pipelines" -- then he must have studied up on it independently, because the knowledge didn't come from his time at Bain Capital.

Unlike many other private equity firms, Bain Capital doesn't typically invest in energy production or infrastructure companies. Not oil drillers, offshore gas exploration companies or pipeline builders. It's actually a notable exception, since Bain invests in most everything else and energy has become the fastest-growing investment area for private equity. For example, when The Carlyle Group (CG) recently agreed to acquire (and save) a Sunoco (SUN) refinery in Philadelphia, Bain didn't even take a look because it didn't have the in-house expertise. Word is that the firm has considered forming an energy practice, but it hasn't happened yet (and certainly didn't happen when Romney was there).

To be clear, this isn't a knock on Romney. For all I know he sleeps to copies of oil platform schematics in his lap. Just pointing out that at a convention where people keep telling me Romney is their choice because of his private-sector experience, that experience didn't involve energy production.

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Dan Primack
Dan Primack
Senior Editor, Fortune

Dan Primack joined Fortune.com in September 2010 to cover deals and dealmakers, from Wall Street to Sand Hill Road. Previously, Dan was an editor-at-large with Thomson Reuters, where he launched both peHUB.com and the peHUB Wire email service. In a past journalistic life, Dan ran a community paper in Roxbury, Massachusetts. He currently lives just outside of Boston.

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