WASHINGTON — Mitt Romney’s energy plan is likely to
endear him to the conservatives he badly needs to win the Republican
presidential nomination, but it could hurt him with the moderates he’d
need to win next November’s election.
for greater U.S. production of coal, oil and natural gas. He’d block
new pollution regulations and roll back some old ones. He’d also abandon
federal subsidies for “green” technologies such as wind and solar
power, deriding the Obama administration’s “unhealthy ‘green’ jobs
Romney’s energy blueprint, part of his
“Believe in America” vision for the economy, says the Clean Air Act is
outdated and needs an overhaul. His policy says nothing about reducing
the risks of climate change; he doesn’t accept the National Academy of
Sciences’ conclusion that emissions from burning coal, oil and gas are
what’s warming the Earth.
“My view is that we
don’t know what’s causing climate change on this planet,” Romney told
supporters at a recent fundraiser, adding that “spending trillions and
trillions of dollars” to reduce emissions “is not the right course for
Other GOP candidates hold similar views, but
Romney’s approach is the most closely watched since it doesn’t square
with the moderate profile he cut as Massachusetts governor, which
remains central to the argument that he’s the most electable Republican
for 2012 since he appeals to independents.
would amend the Clean Air Act to strip provisions requiring safe
pollution levels to be set only on the basis of health and environmental
needs. Currently, once a standard is set on those grounds, then the
Environmental Protection Agency takes costs into account in determining
how polluting companies will comply.
that the pollution controls are unaffordable when unemployment is at 9
percent. His plan doesn’t assess the costs of pollution on health and
Romney also would amend the air
pollution law so it wouldn’t apply to heat-trapping emissions from
fossil fuels. He opposes a regulation on mercury and other air toxics,
such as lead and arsenic, from power plants. The Clean Air Act has
required the regulation since 1990, but the EPA has yet to issue it. The
EPA is scheduled to issue a final version in December.
also opposes stricter standards for ozone, the key component in smog,
as recommended by the EPA’s science advisory board. But then even the
Obama administration recently decided against the stronger regulations
that EPA had been preparing.
Romney rejects government support for wind and solar energy development.
begin with, wind and solar power, two of the most ballyhooed forms of
alternative fuel, remain sharply uncompetitive on their own with
conventional resources such as oil and natural gas in most
applications,” his plan says. “Indeed, at current prices, these
technologies make little sense for the consuming public but great sense
only for the companies reaping profits from taxpayer subsidies.”
views on climate and energy are in tune with congressional Republicans.
For example, he’d require an up-or-down vote in both houses of Congress
on any pollution-control rules that would have a significant impact on
the economy. Unless both the House of Representatives and the Senate
voted for a proposed rule, it wouldn’t take effect.
in both chambers of Congress back that approach. The House is expected
to vote soon on its version, the REINS Act (“Regulations from the
Executive in Need of Scrutiny.” Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., has introduced a
similar bill in the Senate.
Opponents charge that
it would give lobbyists a big say in health and safety regulations, at
the expense of government medical and science advisers.
Conservatives have been wary of Romney on other issues, but they seem fine with him on this one.
it’s a solid plan that would unshackle American energy resources,” said
Levi Russell, a spokesman for Americans for Prosperity, a group that
supports lower taxes and that sponsored a hot-air balloon tour in 2008
to counter what it called “global warming alarmism.”
However, energy isn’t a top-tier issue likely to swing a lot of Republican votes.
“Right now, energy is a subplot,” said Craig Robinson, the editor and founder of The Iowa Republican, a newsletter.
bigger challenge for any GOP candidate is whether his or her views on
energy and the environment are seen as too extreme by the more moderate
voters needed to get elected. While energy issues are hardly at the
forefront of voter concerns, Romney’s views could make it more difficult
for him to woo such voters.
less about a specific issue like energy, and more about a pattern. It’s
not just his specific position, but the sense that he’ll say anything
to get elected,” said Matt Grossmann, an assistant professor of
political science at Michigan State University. “There’s a pattern of
moving to where he thinks voters are.”
risk is slight, however, said Dante Scala, the chairman of the
political science department at the University of New Hampshire.
“Moderates are going to put the environment pretty low on their list,” he said.
Dulio, the chairman of the Oakland University political science
department in Michigan, said Democrats needed to be careful about
promoting green technology after the Solyndra controversy. The
California-based solar power company got more than $500 million in a
federal loan guarantee before going bankrupt.
“That could cut into the argument” that the GOP was out of touch on energy issues, Dulio said.
Other GOP candidates offer views similar to Romney’s on energy and the environment.
Gov. Rick Perry’s energy plan also calls for expanded oil and gas
drilling and less environmental regulation. His campaign issued a
statement pledging that he’d work with Congress to remove the EPA’s
authority over greenhouse gases and to “dismantle the EPA in its current
state and rebuild a scaled-down agency.”
House Speaker Newt Gingrich also would expand oil and gas drilling.
Gingrich’s plans call for replacing the EPA with “an Environmental
Solutions Agency that would use incentives and work cooperatively with
local government and industry.”
Cain hasn’t released an energy plan yet, but he said last week that
he’d take aim at environmental regulations and give the EPA “an attitude
%uFFFD2011 the McClatchy Washington Bureau
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