Obama vs. Romney 101: 7 ways they differ on energy issues

Both President Obama and Mitt Romney claim to want to expand America’s access to conventional fuels and green energy. But their energy plans have very different flavors.

Mr. Romney claims his plan can create 3 million new jobs and give the economy a $500 billion boost by cutting regulations and instituting a more aggressive policy for oil exploration. Mr. Obama has made clean energy a priority, but his proposal that at least 80 percent of the nation's electricity production come from renewable energy by 2035 includes "clean coal" and "efficient" natural gas – a nod toward a more "all-of-the-above” strategy.

Here are some specifics on how the candidates view coal, oil and gas development, "fracking", nuclear power, wind, energy subsidies and tax breaks, and energy efficiency.

Les Stone/REUTERS/File
A natural gas well near Canton, Pa., is at ground zero for fracking the Marcellus shale in the northeastern United States.

1. Coal power

Shannon Stapleton/REUTERS/File
Republican candidate Mitt Romney speaks at the Beallsville Coal event at the American Energy Corp. in Beallsville, Ohio, Aug. 14.

For the first two years of his administration, President Obama pushed for "cap and trade" legislation to limit greenhouse-gas emissions from power plants by putting a price on them for the first time. After the US Senate failed to pass legislation, the administration allowed the Environmental Protection Agency to move ahead with more conventional regulatory measures. Under Mr. Obama, the EPA issued the nation's first standards limiting mercury emissions and other toxins from coal-fired power plants. It has also taken steps to begin regulating carbon dioxide emissions.

But the EPA's go-slow approach, and references to "clean coal" development have irked environmentalists who say Obama's positions are being shaped by election-year politics.

Obama's website cites its "10-year goal to develop and deploy cost-effective clean coal technology, and to put online several commercial demonstration projects within four years." Stimulus money funded 22 carbon capture and sequestration research projects.

Under Romney, coal production would get a boost from revision of the landmark Clean Air Act, eliminating greenhouse-gas emissions restrictions. "Rules affecting coal power plants could be streamlined to achieve the necessary environmental protection while avoiding job-killing plant closures.... This would mean ensuring that the cost of new regulation is always considered and establishing reasonable timelines for compliance."

While governor of Massachusetts, Romney struck a different tone. He supported development of a regional cap-and-trade program to limit coal power plant emissions. Standing beside a polluting coal-fired power plant in Salem, Mass., in 2003, he declared: “I will not create jobs or hold jobs that kill people. And that plant, that plant kills people.”

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