Mitt Romney's energy plan: What does it promise? (+video)
Mitt Romney unveiled his energy plan Thursday, saying that it would bring energy independence to the US within a decade. But some experts were skeptical of the claims.
Mitt Romney on Thursday unveiled a plan to make the US an "energy superpower" and achieve North American "energy independence by 2020." It would happen, the plan says, largely by curbing environmental restrictions and handing off to states traditional federal responsibility for overseeing oil and gas drilling on federal lands.Skip to next paragraph
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In addition to achieving energy security and shrinking trade deficits, the plan claims it would also produce 3 million new jobs and a $500 billion boost to the economy with "lower energy prices for job creators and middle-class families." All told, about $1 trillion in royalties would flow to federal, state, and local governments, the plan states.
But critics say the economic benefits are based on policy calculations that have been out of date for decades and note that while the word "oil" is mentioned 154 times, "climate" is not mentioned once.
Seeking to distinguish himself from President Obama, Mr. Romney set out several main goals for this plan:
• It would cut federal permitting hurdles, contending that shift would vastly boost US oil and gas exploration both onshore and off. Nuclear energy would get fast-tracked reactor designs.
• Coal production would get a boost from revision of the landmark Clean Air Act that would eliminate greenhouse-gas emissions restrictions. Although not mentioned explicitly in the plan document, the law would be modified "to exclude carbon dioxide from its purview," the Romney website's energy section says.
• Offshore leasing would "aggressively" open new zones off the coasts of Virginia and the Carolinas to start – and then expand. The Keystone XL pipeline would be approved. A regional pact to accelerate cross-border energy investments and infrastructure would be signed. More federal research dollars would go to new energy technologies, less to tax incentives.
• Wind, solar, and other renewable energy sources are mentioned briefly and would ostensibly get fast permits, too, but lose their tax credits, advocates say. The Renewable Fuels Standard that mandates increasing quantities of biofuels would be kept, not tossed.
“We have an unprecedented opportunity to make our natural resources a long-term source of competitive advantage for our nation," Romney says in a statement in the plan. "If we develop these resources to the fullest, we will not only guarantee ourselves an affordable and reliable supply of energy, but also enjoy benefits throughout our economy.”
But even if Romney's plan were to dramatically increase US oil production, US energy-security experts say it would do little to lower domestic oil prices, which are set by a global oil market controlled by the Organization for Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).
"Romney makes the same mistake nine previous presidents committed," says Gal Luft, a senior adviser to the United States Energy Security Council, an energy security think tank. "He assumes import reductions will translate into lower oil prices. This paradigm has collapsed. In the past seven years US oil imports dropped from 60 percent of consumption to 42 percent. Yet, over the same period the price of oil doubled and so did the burden of oil imports on the economy. The only thing that can bring down prices is fuel competition and cars that allow it."
Energy-security hawks favor vehicles that can plug in and can run on domestically produced electricity generated from coal, natural gas, wind, and solar power.