When Mitt Romney sat down with the editorial board of the Washington Examiner this week, he was asked about possible “subsidies and incentives” for various industries, including advanced technology. After giving a fairly direct answer, the former governor raised an odd observation. (thanks to reader T.J. for the tip)

“I do believe in basic science…. I believe in analysis of new sources of energy. I believe in laboratories, looking at ways to conduct electricity with — with cold fusion, if we can come up with it. It was the University of Utah that solved that. We somehow can’t figure out how to duplicate it.”

Now, my understanding of these issues is admittedly limited, and since I know there are some scientists reading, I’m hoping to get some additional insights on this.

My understanding is that “cold fusion” is generally considered mythical nonsense. The Fleischmann/Pons experiments got published, but then were subjected to the scientific method — and no one could produce the same results.

And in physics, if the results can’t be duplicated, it’s not real science.

So, what exactly is Mitt Romney getting at here? Does he really believe Fleischmann and Pons “solved” cold fusion? If he believes in “basic science,” then why is he talking about a rejected experiment that “we can’t figure out how to duplicate”?

Or more to the point, should voters expect a Romney administration to invest money in cold-fusion research?

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.