Thursday, August 23, 2012

Romney’s Energy Plan – Dick Cheney On Steroids

Mitt Romney’s comprehensive energy plan was officially announced today. It was comprehensive in name only.

While giving a brief mention to renewables, the plan seems to have been crafted in the boardroom of Exxon-Mobil or any other oil company It's hard to imagine that what Vice President Dick Cheney and the energy companies cooked up in their secret get-together in early 2001 could be any more favorable to the oil giants and coal companies. 

Given who is on Romney's energy advisory team, and given what Romney has been saying since his campaign began, nothing in the plan is a surprise except, perhaps, for the brazenness of its deep bow to carbon-based fuel companies.

The plan calls for North American energy independence by 2020 and would get there by opening up more off-shore land to oil and gas leases, giving states authority over on-shore energy development on public land, getting rid of regulations that hamper energy development (read:environmental regulations), shifting the cost of seismic surveys to the taxpayers to determine the best areas to drill, leaving renewables development to the private sector (read: no subsidies for wind, solar and geothermal) while continuing subsidies and favored treatment for fossil fuels.

Not once is the word, "climate," mentioned. But the plan would, Team Romney claims, create three million new jobs.

While renewables would get nada, the big five oil giants alone would get another $2.3 billion annually in tax breaks. The job loss in the renewables industry could hit 37,000.

Putting a wrench into environmental rules would not only assist oil operations but give a boost to the coal industry as well. The prospect of court-approved regulations of emissions, including  carbon dioxide emissions, by the Environmental Protection Agency have been under attack from right-wingers and some coal-state Democrats for years. Since 2001, only 23 of the proposed 249 new coal-fired power plants have come on line. That has environmentalists cheering since coal plants, which provide about 40 percent of the nation's electricity, are a leading source of carbon-dioxide emissions that are a key factor driving global warming.

While the states would be given authority to handle oil and gas leasing, the siting of new nuclear power plants would get fast-track approval by the federal government under the Romney plan.

Naturally, the Keystone XL pipeline to carry tar-sands oil from Canada to the Texas Gulf Coast would be approved—on Day One of his presidency, as Romney as previously said—presumably regardless of what state authorities, like those in Nebraska, think about the latest route.

So, while state authority would be given the go-ahead when that helps industry, federal authority would prevail where that best would provide for industry's needs. It's the perfect Romney approach to everything: having things both ways.

You can see the 21-page plan at Grist. As Philip Bump there notes, the document is mostly quotations from newspapers and other sources rather than any details on precisely how this North American independence will be achieved.

One thing it would certainly require is a massive ramp-up, potentially a doubling, of oil production in seven years and an increase in new coal-fired power plants. Given Romney's view that producers of wind and solar electricity should not receive tax credits, it's likely that those sources would provide far less of any energy independence that would be achieved by 2020.

Calling the plan backward-thinking is far too generous. It's the culmination, among other things, of 20 years of climate-change denial, taking exactly the opposite direction from where we should be going.

As Bump writes, "There is literally nothing in his proposal that would cause a single sleepless night for executives at Shell or Chevron." Which goes to show you how little they care, how little Mitt Romney cares, about the world they will leave their children and grandchildren.

Romney's approach to energy is reminiscent of Ronald Reagan's 31 years ago. Except we didn't have 395 parts per million CO2 in the atmosphere then.

Here are five facts about the Romney-Ryan “oil above all” energy strategy you ought to know as put forward in Romney's energy speech in New Mexico today.

1. The Romney-Ryan plan gives the big five oil companies a $2.3 billion tax cut above and beyond existing tax loopholes
Both Romney’s plan and the House-passed Ryan budget would retain $2.4 billion in annual tax breaks for the big five oil companies – BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, and Shell – that made a record $137 billion in profits last year, and over $60 billion so far in 2012. Perhaps more outrageous is that the Romney-Ryan proposed cut in the corporate tax rate would provide a $2.3 billion tax cut for the big five oil companies. With the existing tax breaks, the big five companies would skim over $4 billion annually from the U.S. Treasury.

2. Romney plan gives Americans’ lands and waters to dirty energy interests
Romney also proposes the extreme idea of giving states control over energy development on America’s public lands.  This is a misguided proposal that would end the tradition of managing lands that belong to the entire country for the wide array of resource values to “meet the present and future needs of the American people.” Instead, on a state by state basis these unparalleled national assets – including national parks – could be turned over to energy companies, making energy development the primary use of the land, at the expense of grazing, hunting, fishing, and all other forms of recreation. A similar proposal was too radical even for arch conservative Arizona Governor Jan Brewer. She vetoed a bill turning all federal lands over to her state.

3. Romney and Ryan would cede clean energy innovation, exports to China, Germany, other nations. They outsource energy jobs to our greatest competitors.
The worldwide market for clean energy technologies will be $2 trillion by 2020. Yet Romney and Ryan would cede this market to other nations by opposing incentives to help emerging technologies grow to scale. Romney and Ryan oppose the extension of the Production Tax Credit to encourage wind energy. The PTC helped the U.S. double its wind electricity generation over the past four years, and ending it could cost at least 37,000 jobs this year.
An American Wind Energy Association analysis predicts that New Mexico and Texas could lose up to 5,000 and 20,000 jobs, respectively, if the PTC expires.

4. Romney plan won’t reduce oil and gasoline prices
Romney falsely claims that his energy plan will “lower energy prices.”  Oil prices are set on the global market, regardless of domestic production. Even oil independent nations such as Canada experienced high gasoline prices this year. The Wall Street Journal reiterated that “Producing a lot of oil doesn’t lower the price of gasoline in your country.” To determine whether domestic oil production lowers gasoline prices, the Associated Press analyzed 30 years of production and price data. AP determined that there is:
“No statistical correlation between how much oil comes out of U.S. wells and the price at the pump.”

5. Romney and Ryan support continuing mercury contamination from power plants
The Obama administration issued overdue reduction standards for mercury and cancer causing pollution from power plants.  The standard saves thousands of lives of children, seniors and other vulnerable people. Yet Romney promises to undo it on his very first day in office by issuing an executive order that
“Directs all agencies to immediately initiate the elimination of Obama-era regulations that unduly burden the economy or job creation.”
The Mercury and Air Toxics Standard will produce “$3 to $9 in health benefits” for every dollar in pollution reduction costs, according to EPA.
In spite of record-breaking temperatures, severe droughts and raging wildfires plaguing the U.S. this year and worsened by manmade climate change, Mitt Romney has put the interests of big donors over science once again. The Romney-Ryan energy plan is simply a handout to their biggest polluter supporters, ignoring the devastating impacts of continuing to rely on a fossil-fuel based economy that does nothing either to address the growing threat of global warming or to increase our competitiveness in the growing clean energy economy.

Here's the entire Romney white paper on energy.

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