Mitt Romney released an energy plan yesterday that some outlets report sets a goal of energy independence by 2020. That’s not quite right. The goal expressed here is “North American energy independence” by 2020, and when you consider that one of our biggest if not our biggest energy trading partner is Canada, and that Mexico ships a fair bit of oil as well, that really says very little.
The white paper shifts back and forth between “North American” energy independence and just “energy independence,” seeking to blur that distinction. But one of the key elements of the plan is a “North American Energy Partnership,” which mainly consists of approving the Keystone XL pipeline and any other pipelines Canada and Mexico want to build. There’s also a whiff of the idea that we should gouge Canada and Mexico and purchase their oil at a discount. The white paper makes this outlandish statement that “America still imports more oil from OPEC than it does from Canada and Mexico,” when OPEC consists of practically every oil producing nation on Earth, with much greater capacity than the two North American countries, and yet it’s STILL pretty close, with the US getting 37% of its oil resources from Canada and Mexico, compared to about 50% from OPEC.
The other parts of the energy plan, which has no actual metrics in it but instead some broad principles, are fairly familiar. There’s a “drill-baby-drill” section urging an opening of as many offshore sites for development as possible; a “state’s rights” section that would devolve onshore development down to the states (so good luck if you live in Texas or the Plains or the Deep South); a “no more Solyndras” section on the facilitation of “private-sector-led development” of new energy technologies; and a “stop the EPA” section that stresses “transparency and fairness” in permitting and regulations. There’s also a section on accurately assessing current energy resources, the idea being that there’s all this undiscovered oil in America that the government is deliberately hiding.
The domestic energy boom, of course, has already happened. The development of natural gas through fracking has skyrocketed over the past decade or so, reducing greenhouse gas emissions through coal even as environmental questions about fracking have been raised. Solar and wind power nearly doubled since the investments from the stimulus, although that entire wind power industry faces impending doom if the wind production tax credit isn’t secured (Romney opposes extending that tax credit). Oil production is up on onshore and offshore sites. Renewable fuels have expended under the federal mandate, one that Romney says specifically he would keep. Coal is being phased out, a key difference between the Romney campaign and the status quo; the energy plan specifically wants to reverse the de facto regulatory “barring the use of resources like coal.” The Romney campaign would also keep in place needless subsidies for the oil and gas industry, a waste of around $40 billion that could go to alternative energy development and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The Obama campaign provided Federico Peña, the former
Energy Transportation Secretary under Clinton, to give this quote on the plan: “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.”
Basically, we could have written this Romney plan for him. It combines all the elements of conservative ideology in service to the oil and coal industries. It has floating numbers about benefits ($500 billion in economic impact! 3 million jobs! 1.1 million manufacturing jobs!) tied to no actual data. But the choice here, of course, is between this real assault on the nation’s natural resources, and a kinder, gentler assault, with fracking and shale oil development and offshore oil almost everywhere. There are big differences between Romney and Obama on coal and wind. But that’s mostly it.