A few months ago, a reader wrote in asking for an assessment of Mitt Romney’s energy policies, from an EarthTechling perspective. I thought it was too soon to go there. Why take the trouble of examining a guy who might lose the nomination to Herman Cain? Careful analysis, however, now reveals that Cain will not be nominee. Nor will Bachmann, Huntsman or Perry – or any of the dead men walking: Paul, Santorum or even Gingrich.
No, it’s going to be Obama vs. Romney, and although the Occupy movement is right when it says sucking up to corporate interests is a bipartisan activity, on matters of clean energy, this matchup offers a clear choice: One guy will mostly do the right thing, the other guy will mostly do the wrong thing.
True, in an Obama second term we might still have to endure his frustrating unwillingness to warm our green hearts with some no-holds-barred ass-kicking on climate change. Even when this president arrives at the right place – as on the Keystone XL pipeline question – the journey is often less than completely satisfying.
“This announcement is not a judgment on the merits of the pipeline, but the arbitrary nature of a deadline that prevented the State Department from gathering the information necessary to approve the project and protect the American people,” the president said in explaining his decision. That’s hardly a galvanizing repudiation of a project that would aid and abet a tar sands extraction and refinement process that is, from a climate-change perspective, a giant step in the wrong direction.
Still, he did make the right call, and we cannot forget that this administration has directed more federal resources into clean energy than any president ever through a variety of means, and at no small political cost. And the administration – as Susan Kraemer recently pointed out on EarthTechling – has put the pedal to the metal in opening up public lands for resource development beyond oil and coal, embracing solar, wind and geothermal.
Romney’s energy plan, meanwhile, could have been written by a fossil-fuel industries lobbyist. Did I say could have been? It was! A top Romney advisor is the former Missouri senator Jim Talent, whose lobbying shop has been taking in $125,000 a year from big coal. In Romney’s policy opus, “Believe in America,” Talent has a bylined piece in which he sings the praises of stuff that comes out of the ground (plus nuclear, which is endorsed without even a cursory nod toward the questions raised by the Fukishima disaster).
Most startling is the assertion from Team Mitt that Obama has ended energy production in the United States. Yes, ended it: “Stopping energy production in the United States has cost us millions of jobs in the energy industry alone – good, high paying jobs that Americans need. It has cost us hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue because energy companies pay royalties and fees when they lease land from the government to produce energy. It has allowed hostile foreign regimes and movements to hold us hostage or extract money from us that is then used against us. Worst of all, stopping energy production has hurt the economy, and that is bad for everyone.”
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