Romney Energy Plan Bad News For Climate

Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney unveiled his energy policy platform today in New Mexico, and as you may have expected, much of the platform is a sharp campaign jab at the Obama administration's policies on renewable energy.

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To see this, you need read no further than the platform's second sentence:

While President Obama has described his own energy policy as a "hodgepodge," sent billions of taxpayer dollars to green energy projects run by political cronies, rejected the Keystone XL Pipeline as not in "the national interest," and sought repeatedly to stall development of America's domestic resources, Romney's path forward would establish America as an energy superpower in the 21st century.

The overall thrust of the document is that Romney's energy policy, which focuses on accelerated exploitation of fossil fuels and "streamlined" regulation of the energy industry, will make the United States energy independent in the next eight years -- if you define "independence" as including imports from Canada and Mexico.

The policy is frustratingly short on detail, composed primarily of vague statements each followed by a dozen or so links to supporting articles from various press outlets. It also appears hastily edited, given occasional duplications such as in these bullet points in the public lands energy development section:

  • States will be empowered to establish processes to oversee the development and production of all forms of energy on federal lands within their borders,

  • State regulatory processes and permitting programs for all forms of energy development will be deemed to satisfy all requirements of federal law

  • Federal agencies will certify state processes as adequate, according to established criteria that are sufficiently broad, to afford the states maximum flexibility to ascertain what is most appropriate

The document accuses the Obama administration of deliberately interfering with fossil fuel development on public lands:

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.

Among the specific measures Romney endorses, aside from devolving oversight of public lands energy development to the states, are approving the controversial Keystone XL pipeline project to pump carbon-intensive petroleum from Canada's Athabascan oil sands deposits, speeding up the rate of offshore oil drilling (though the document doesn't specifically mention the Pacific Coast) and making it much harder for environmental groups to sue the federal government.

Interestingly, the document nowhere mentions Romney's position on the Production Tax Credit for wind power. Though the national GOP has come out strongly in opposition to extending the tax credit, which expires in December, a groundswell of Republican representatives from the Midwest and Plains states have started to voice their support for an extension. Romney's criticism of Obama's renewables policies also seems not to extend to ethanol, the favorite renewable energy source of the conservative Corn Belt. The word "ethanol" appears nowhere in the document, and "biofuels" only once, in a discussion of deregulation.

Another word that nowhere appears in the document, which will surprise few: "Climate."

But Romney does take aim at Obama's overall policy with regard to renewables:

The federal government has a role to play in facilitating innovation in the energy industry. History shows that the United States has moved forward in astonishing ways thanks to investments in basic research that have produced breakthroughs to benefit entire industries. Unfortunately, President Obama's poor understanding of the private sector has spilled directly into his energy policy, as he sought to have government play venture capitalist and spend billions of dollars subsidizing his chosen companies and technologies. Meanwhile, as companies like Solyndra were going bankrupt and the wind industry was shedding 10,000 jobs, revolutionary innovation in the private sector was paving the way for energy independence and an economic resurgence.

Perhaps most chillingly, Romney's policy would undo disincentives, real or imagined, to our continued reliance on coal as an energy source. In a world already teetering on the brink of climate catastrophe, deliberate attempts to encourage more coal burning are counterproductive, to say the least.

ReWire is dedicated to covering renewable energy in California. Keep in touch by liking us on Facebook, and help shape our editorial direction by taking this quick survey here.

For ongoing environmental coverage in March 2017 and afterward, please visit our show Earth Focus, or browse Redefine for historic material.
KCET's award-winning environment news project Redefine ran from July 2012 through February 2017.

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