Mitt Romney's Love Affair with the Fossil Fuel Industry
Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney's “new” energy plan, relies on 19th century fossil fuel technology. It is but the latest incarnation of a longstanding Republican obsession with oil and gas. Romney’s energy strategy is reliant on Canada’s environmentally disastrous tar sands. He wants to expedite the Keystone XL pipeline, reduce regulations on hydraulic fracturing and ease the permitting process for offshore oil and gas. Romney wants to take regulatory power away from the federal government and give it to individual states. He wants to amend the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act and weaken the EPA's ability to regulate pollution.
While Romney is pushing for more oil and gas, his plan does not advocate either conservation or efficiency. Instead he would end subsidies for renewable sources of energy like solar and wind.
The Republican convention in Florida was delayed due to concerns about Hurricane Isaac. The timing of Isaac is ironic given that GOP appears oblivious to the relationship between global warming and extreme weather. They do not see the powerful symbolism of four hurricanes, Andrew, Katrina, Irene and now Isaac, all landing at roughly the same time and in the same place.
The Republican presidential hopeful’s support for fossil fuels ignores the overwhelming price of extreme weather. With a cost of $81 billion and 1,836 dead, Katrina was the most expensive natural disaster in American history. About 20 years ago this week, Hurricane Andrew hit Florida; it cost $25 billion and killed 15 people. Hurricane Irene struck one year ago and caused an estimated $15 billion in damage while killing at least 67 people.
Romney continues to push for more offshore oil despite the fact that Hurricane Isaac will likely stir up oil left over from the massive Gulf spill of 2010. The remnants of that spill take the form of large tar mats that lie submerged just off the coast.
It appears nothing will deter Romney from pursuing his wanton desire to increase America’s reliance on oil and gas. As reviewed in a Grist article by Lisa Hymas, Mitt Romney's 21 page energy strategy mentions oil a total of 154 times and natural gas 36 times. The document references coal more often than solar or wind energy and efficiency only gets mentioned once. His plan completely ignores the smart grid, sustainability and climate change.
Romney claims his fossil fuel fixation will create jobs and he eschews government support for renewable energy. However, clean energy has been a great jobs creator, in many cases far more than the fossil fuel industry. In Iowa alone, 7,000 jobs have been created in the wind power industry. Thanks to the wind production tax credit (PTC), the wind industry now employs more people than the coal sector. The US solar energy industry currently employs 100,000 workers at 5,600 companies.
The Republican nominee wants to kill support for renewable energy while continuing to give oil companies $4 billion in annual subsidies. In addition, the Romney plan would provide a $2.3 billion tax cut for the big five oil companies through cuts in the corporate tax rate. Over the next 9 years, the U.S. coal industry is expected to receive $8 billion in taxpayer support.
Romney claims oil is more economical, but his plan does not factor the massive health care costs associated with the burning of fossil fuels. According to a Harvard Medical study, these costs amount to $345 billion. When health issues are factored into the equation the cost of coal per kilowatt is more than 3x the cost of wind.
Romney’s emphasis on oil and gas and resistance to support renewable energy should come as no surprise as his top advisors are closely affiliated with the fossil fuel industry. Harold Hamm is the founder, chairman and chief executive officer of Continental Resources Inc. (CLR). Hamm is one of the richest people in America and the chairman of Romney's Energy Policy Advisory Group. Romney’s other advisors are also oil industry insiders. David Wilkins is a Canadian lobbyist for tar sands oil and Andrea Saul was formerly with the DCI Group, a public affairs and lobbying firm that has worked with Big Oil to undermine the facts on global warming.
At one time, Romney was a strong supporter of action on climate change. Now in his bid to be President, he is leading the climate deniers with a strategy that seems to invite climate change. Romney is a political opportunist who is depending on the oil and gas industry to help fund his campaign. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Romney has directly received more than $1 million from the oil and gas industry and the Koch brothers are expected to spend up to $200 million to help get their man elected.
Romney’s love of fossil fuel is at odds with the sentiments of most Americans. Americans hate the oil and gas industry and want global warming and clean energy to be national priorities. According to an August Gallup poll, a total of 61 percent of Americans gave the fossil fuel industry a negative rating, the worst of any industry in the U.S. Romney’s opposition to clean energy is also at odds with the views of the American public. A March Gallup poll had found that people were twice as likely to support solar and wind energy than coal or natural gas. The same poll found that 69 percent of Americans favored spending more government money on developing renewable energy.
As reviewed in a press release from the Sierra Club, greenhouse gas emissions are down to their lowest level in 20 years, Americans are using less oil, and new fuel standards will double efficiency and slash CO2. Over the last four years U.S. wind power has doubled and solar has grown by a factor of five. All of these advances would be reversed by Romney’s energy plan.
Romney’s intention to double down on oil and natural gas is a policy position that is incompatible with a 21st century economy. Romney's resistance to renewable energy and support for fossil fuels is nothing short of reckless. His plan would result in the loss of tens of thousands of jobs in the clean energy industry and unleash pollutants that would harm Americans.
Romney’s energy strategy is a blueprint for increasing emissions and a roadmap for runaway climate change. America simply cannot afford a President who is so willfully ignorant on energy and the environment.
Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, eco-economics and enviro-politics. He is the owner of The Green Market Oracle, a leading sustainable business blog and one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. Find The Green Market on Facebook and follow The Green Market’s twitter feed.
Image credit: TerranceDC, courtesy Flickr