Romney plan gets cheers, jeers from Democrats, industry groups

Democrats quickly attacked presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s energy plan as more oil and gas industry associations applauded it. A leading environmental organization also strongly criticized the proposal, which the Romney campaign released on Aug. 23 (OGJ Online, Aug. 23, 2012).

Stephanie Cutter, deputy campaign manager for US President Barack Obama’s reelection bid, told reporters in a conference call that afternoon that Romney’s plan “is simply doing the bidding of ‘Big Oil.’” She said, “It’s taking us back to failed energy policies of the past, and subjecting consumers to market fluctuations and higher costs.”

US Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s ranking minority member, said, “Mitt Romney’s plan is just more of the same oil-above-all agenda. He wants to protect billions in subsidies for oil companies while raising taxes on clean renewable energy. The Romney plan takes us in the wrong direction by increasing our dependence on oil, ignoring the reality of climate change, and attacking commonsense environmental protections and successful clean energy programs.”

White House Press Sec. Jay Carney, during the Aug. 23 daily briefing, said Obama embraces all forms of energy while Republicans denigrate wind, solar, and other alternative and renewable sources. “This is a narrow view and a dangerous view if you think about how important energy security is and domestic production of energy is to our national security interests,” Carney stated.

At a campaign appearance in Hobbs, NM, earlier that day, Romney noted that 3 million jobs could return to the US “by taking advantage of something we have right underneath our feet: That’s oil, and gas, and coal. We’re going to make it happen. We’re going to create those jobs.”

Romney plan highlights

Under Romney’s proposal, US states would play a bigger part in federal onshore energy development decisions, more offshore areas would be open for oil and gas development, and the federal government would pursue stronger alliances with Canada and Mexico. It also would assess potential US energy resources, try to make regulation and permitting more transparent, provide government support for fossil fuel as well as alternative energy research and development, and rely more on the private sector for future energy R&D.

Officials from oil and gas groups applauded the Romney energy plan. “It incorporates the appropriate role of government in energy policy, which must be to promote energy development, rather than stifle it by overwhelming or threatening legislation and destructive legislation,” said Virginia (Gig) Lazenby, chairman of the Independent Petroleum Association of America and of Bretagna LLC, a Nashville upstream independent.

“For instance, the states—not bureaucrats from Washington—best know how to protect the environment while allowing for responsible American energy production,” she continued. “The Romney plan also recognizes the important principle of multiple-use federal land management in which oil and gas development should play a prominent role.

Kathleen Sgamma, vice-president of government and public affairs at the Western Energy Alliance in Denver, said the regional upstream independents association also liked the Romney plan’s idea “of empowering states, rather than imposing a one-size-fits-all federal government approach.”

American Gas Association Pres. Dave McCurdy, meanwhile, said the group, which represents gas utilities, felt that Romney’s plan would help stimulate a national discussion of energy issues. American Petroleum Institute Pres. Jack N. Gerard made the same point a few hours earlier.

‘Foundation fuel’

AGA also was encouraged that Romney’s plan would streamline processes to enable continued responsible gas production and deliveries, McCurdy added. “A plan that establishes gas as a foundation fuel and promotes greater use of this clean energy source will boost our economy and reduce our dependence on foreign oil,” he said. “I look forward to a continued discussion with both parties about the important role natural gas will play in our nation’s energy future.”

American Energy Alliance Pres. Thomas Pyle, meanwhile, stated, “Energy will continue to be a major concern for the American people. With [gasoline] prices setting record highs this summer, corn prices artificially inflated due to failed energy policies, and electricity rates skyrocketing nationwide, it is important for the American people to know where Mitt Romney stands and where he would take the country.”

The proposal received a mixed review from H. Sterling Burnett, a senior fellow specializing in energy at the Center for Policy Analysis in Dallas. “Compared to Obama’s plan, it’s a clear winner, but if I were grading, I’d give it a B,” he said. “I agree that it is well past time that we opened additional areas to offshore oil production, and beginning in Virginia seems right since state officials have indicated a desire to open offshore areas to production.”

Burnett also endorsed Romney’s idea of giving states a bigger role managing public land within their borders, adding, “Only political hacks and pure partisans could say it’s a giveaway to the oil and gas industry since Romney also supports development of renewable resources.”

He also applauded the Republican’s call to end wind energy tax credits, but suggested that it should be extended to all energy subsidies including those for fossil fuels. Burnett also was critical of Romney’s continued support of the federal Renewal Fuel Standard in his energy proposals.

Sierra Club Pres. Michael Brune, meanwhile, dismissed Romney’s plan entirely. “Does anyone really think that the winning economy of the 21st century can be built on 19th century fossil-fuel technology?” he said. “Romney's plan is an anchor to the past. The future America deserves is one in which energy doesn’t cost lives, and no one has to choose between a good job and good health.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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