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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.

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"There's some good elements in this plan related to jobs and balance of payments improvements," says R. James Woolsey, former energy adviser to John McCain during his presidential run and former director of the Central Intelligence Agency says. But "they could have curbed OPEC's power simply by requiring vehicles to be able to use more than one fuel."

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Others similarly expressed reservations about the plan's claim of energy independence.

"This plan is all about increasing supply and not about reducing demand by eliminating energy waste and by shifting to more abundant fuels," says Reid Detchon, executive director of the Energy Future Coalition, a broad-based non-partisan public policy. 

Oil companies were enthusiastic about the plan. 

“The Romney plan demonstrates a very clear understanding of how America’s oil and natural gas companies, like mine, work," said Virginia “Gigi” Lazenby, chairman of the Independent Petroleum Association of America in a statement. "States, not bureaucrats from Washington, best know how to protect the environment while allowing for responsible American energy production." 

Environmentalists were quick to lash out at the plan.

The Romney-Ryan plan is an “oil above all” energy strategy that ignores current drought conditions and the impact of fossil fuels in accelerating climate change, writes Daniel Weiss, director of Climate Strategy at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, a left-leaning think tank, in a recent blog.

He also questions the plan's economic figures. 

"The Romney-Ryan plan once again claims mysterious 'trillions' of dollars in government revenue," Weiss wrote. "However, a recent Congressional Budget Office analysis found that their proposals would bring in only limited federal revenues over the next decade. Instead, the Romney-Ryan energy plan includes billions of dollars of tax breaks to corporate polluter allies, access to lands and waters owned by all Americans, and fewer restrictions on mercury, toxic, and carbon pollution."

Some elements of the plan might be hard to get through Congress. It would also allow weaker state regulatory processes and permitting to hold sway on millions of acres of federal lands, excluding only National Parks and a few other now-restricted areas. With the US Senate split on the issue, "this one could prove the hardest to execute," writes Kevin Book, an energy market researcher with ClearView Energy Partners, a Washington-based energy market research firm.

Oil production is already at an eight-year high, while oil imports fell from an all-time high of 13.5 million barrels per day (65 percent of demand) in 2005 to 9.8 million barrels per day (52 percent of demand) last year. A weak economy is responsible for much of the drop in demand. But fuel efficiency also plays a role, and the Obama administration is expected to announce soon a set of mandates for a 54.5 miles per gallon fleet average by 2025, further diminishing fuel consumption.

"We're much more energy independent as a country now than we were under the last Republican administration, and we've seen exponential growth in the clean-energy sector," says Joshua Freed, vice president for clean energy at Third Way, a nonpartisan Washington think tank. "So it's very disappointing that the Romney document seems to ignore or is unaware of that growth."

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