Energy issues are central to the country‚??s economic revival and will be a major focus of the presidential campaign, say political observers who predict Mitt Romney‚??s positions on the issues will be popular with voters.
While President Barack Obama rails against fossil fuels and supports billions of dollars in new spending for experimental sources of energy, Romney and running mate Paul Ryan support the development of the country‚??s natural resources as the foundation for a growing and modern economy.
‚??The Obama administration is the most hostile in history to the types of energy that are affordable and abundant right here at home,‚?Ě said Dan Kish, senior vice president for policy at the Institute for Energy Research in Washington, D.C. ‚??The war on fossil fuels they have waged will take years to correct because they have carpet-bombed coal communities and put policies in place that will make it harder to produce oil and gas from taxpayer-owned lands controlled by the government.
‚??Romney and Ryan have signaled a reversal of the suicidal energy policies of the Obama administration and see the potential for job growth and economic renaissance for the nation that could come from putting our people to work producing affordable energy instead of throwing tens of billions of dollars down a rat hole pursuing energy sources that cost too much and will make America less competitive,‚?Ě Kish said.
End wind subsidy
In addition to his strong support for fossil fuels, Romney recently took a tough stance against continuing a federal subsidy for the wind production tax credit that has cost taxpayers $20 billion even as wind remains an unreliable source of energy.
‚??That is a pretty gutsy thing to do and he deserves a lot of credit,‚?Ě said Myron Ebell, director of Freedom Action, a group founded by political and policy experts from the Competitive Enterprise Institute. ‚??It‚??s politically risky; it shows he is determined to make major changes when he gets into office,‚?Ě Ebell said. ‚??He is in line with conservative thinking on these issues.‚?Ě
The 20-year credit is set to expire this year but Democrats want to extend it and spend another $12 billion.
Shawn McCoy, a campaign spokesman, told The Des Moines Register, ‚??He will allow the wind credit to expire, end the stimulus boondoggles, and create a level playing field on which all sources of energy can compete on their merits. Wind energy will thrive wherever it is economically competitive, and wherever private sector competitors with far more experience than the president believe the investment will produce results,‚?Ě McCoy said.
In the West, where a large segment of the economy relies on the development of natural resources on public lands, this will be a crucial concern for voters, says Gale Norton, the first woman to hold the position of Interior Department secretary and served in George W. Bush‚??s administration.
End ‚??misguided regulation‚??
‚??For us, energy issues are very important. We have tremendous possibility for energy development, if they are not hampered by misguided regulation,‚?Ě she said.
The Romney-Ryan campaign released a white paper on their energy proposal last week. While short on details, it describes an ambitious plan to achieve energy independence by 2020, create millions of jobs and return $1 trillion in revenue to local and federal governments.
Partnering with Canada and Mexico to dramatically increase domestic energy production is listed as a ‚??crucial component.‚?Ě
The white paper says the Romney administration would rely on the private sector rather than taxpayers to fund alternative energy, revitalize nuclear power by approving new reactor designs, give states more power to approve energy development on public lands, conduct a survey of unexplored oil and gas reserves, and maintain the ethanol mandate.
Recent statements by Romney and a platform released by his campaign provide a clear preview of how a his administration would tackle the issues.
‚??The goal of my energy policy is straightforward: guarantee America the most affordable and reliable supply in the world,‚?Ě Romney‚??s platform said. ‚??In place of real energy, Obama has focused on an imaginary world where government-subsidized windmills and solar panels could power the economy. This vision has failed ‚?¶ as president, I will unleash American innovation and productivity to make full use of our natural resources.‚?Ě
On an Aug. 14 trip to coal country in Ohio, Romney said the Obama administration is ‚??waging a war on coal‚?Ě and that bureaucratic regulations have crippled the industry. ‚??There were some promises he kept. One promise he kept was with regard to energy. He said if he‚??s elected president and his policies get put in place the cost of energy would skyrocket. That‚??s one he‚??s kept,‚?Ě Romney said.
The Romney-Ryan platform would modernize outdated environmental laws to reconsider the cost to ratepayers, and ‚??stop the EPA‚??s practice of using imaginary benefits to justify onerous burdens. In my administration, coal will not be a four-letter word,‚?Ě the platform said.
Romney has stated that the first business of his administration would be to approve construction of the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to Texas, which Obama has repeatedly blocked. Romney plans on expanding domestic oil production, too.
Romney does not support cap-and-trade mandates, which he calls ‚??feel-good policies‚?Ě that ‚??could cripple economic growth with devastating results for people across the planet.‚?Ě
A thoughtful approach to energy and the environment need not be anti-growth and anti-jobs, Romney said.