Romney’s energy policy fuels US political debate

Indeed, Romney’s tactics to achieve U.S. energy independence by 2020 focus mainly on exploitation of fossil fuels – offshore oil exploration, drilling on federal lands, fracking, and coal mining – with only superficial attention devoted to the development of clean energy sources, such as solar generation, wind farms, hydroelectricity and biofuels.

In a reference to the "No More Solyndras Act", which was advanced this month by the predominantly Republican U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Romney repudiates U.S. President Barack Obama’s efforts to "sen[d] billions of taxpayer dollars to green energy projects run by political cronies." Romney’s plan expunges the subsidies and loan guarantees used by the current administration to gain traction in the tremendously competitive global clean energy marketplace.

Instead, he pledges to remove impediments to permitting of projects on federal lands, noting, "In the midst of the energy revolution taking place on state and privately held lands across America, oil and gas production on federal lands somehow plummeted last year. This was no accident. President Obama has intentionally sought to shut down oil, gas, and coal production in pursuit of his own alternative energy agenda. Federal land open for exploration has declined nearly 20 percent on his watch, and the rate of permitting is down 37 percent. It now takes a shocking 307 days to receive the permits to drill a new well."

Specifically, the Romney agenda is based on six bullet points:

  • Empower states to control onshore energy development;
  • Open offshore areas for energy development;
  • Pursue a North American Energy Partnership;
  • Ensure accurate assessment of energy resources;
  • Restore transparency and fairness to permitting and regulation; and
  • Facilitate private-sector-led development of new energy technologies.

As part of his North American Energy Partnership, the Republican frontrunner states that he will approve the Keystone XL Pipeline, which would transport synthetic crude oil and diluted bitumen from the Athabasca oil sands region in northeastern Alberta, to multiple destinations in the United States. This is a move that has been fought by environmentalists, who are concerned that the pipeline could pollute air and water supplies and harm migratory birds and other wildlife.

However, Romney argues that, "North America is the fastest-growing oil and gas producing region in the world and the continent now has an opportunity to achieve freedom from OPEC that would not have even been contemplated just ten years ago.

"Unfortunately," he continues, "President Obama has chosen to turn his back on America’s neighbors. He rejected the Keystone XL pipeline, which would have dramatically increased the supply of Canadian oil to the U.S. market… As Canadian Prime Minister Harper notes, a greater North American energy partnership that replaces OPEC imports with stable supply from secure sources at discounted prices should be a ‘no brainer.’

"And Mexico is now displaying a renewed interest in collaborating with outside partners to increase development of its own plentiful resources. By collaborating with these countries on energy development, America can guarantee itself a reliable and affordable supply of energy while also opening up new opportunities for American businesses and workers in the region."

Furthermore, in a direct strike against federal clean energy funding, Romney opines, "Instead of defining success as providing enough subsidies for an uncompetitive technology to survive in the market, success should be defined as eliminating any barriers that might prevent the best technologies from succeeding on their own."

The plan, which is nearly diametrically opposed to the policies of the current administration, should provide ample fodder for both the Republicans and Democrats during the upcoming 2012 presidential conventions, debates and campaign stops.

"Mitt Romney’s energy plan is simply doing the bidding of Big Oil," Stephanie Cutter, Obama’s deputy campaign manager, told reporters on a conference call, after the policy paper was released. She added that Romney’s pledge to achieve energy independence by 2020 was "empty rhetoric and very short on any new policy."

Also on behalf of the Obama campaign, the Clinton-era Energy Secretary, Federico Pena, provided a statement that, "Only two days after a fundraiser hosted by the CEO of major oil companies, Romney is expected to defend billions in oil subsidies while opposing efforts to use oil more efficiently and develop homegrown alternative energy. We will never reach energy independence by turning our backs on homegrown renewable energy and better auto mileage."

Pena noted, "President Obama has championed an all-of-the-above approach to energy that responsibly develops America’s great natural resources. And under President Obama, we are producing the most natural gas ever, the most oil in 14 years, and are on track to double the amount of electricity we get from renewable sources like wind and solar. We are investing in the future of clean coal, biofuels and other forms of energy. His investments in clean energy have already supported nearly 225,000 jobs and are helping American workers to compete with China and India for these jobs of the future."

Michael A. Levi, director of the Program on Energy Security and Climate Change for the New York City-based Council on Foreign Relations told National Public Radio (NPR), "The word, ‘climate,’ does not appear in the energy plan. That is a conspicuous absence."

And finally, Obama’s Press Secretary. Jay Carney commented, "While the Republican approach denigrates forms of energy like wind, this President believes that investing in renewable energy is essential to enhancing our energy independence."