Both Obama and Romney see energy development as a job creator — but that’s where many of the similarities end. Here’s a look at how the two presidential contenders stack up on big energy ideas:
Romney touts his plan as a path to North American energy independence by 2020. But the continent is already on that trajectory, thanks to existing energy policies and new boons in oil and gas development, including the extraction of fossil fuels from dense rock formations using sophisticated new technology.
In its annual outlook, the government’s Energy Information Administration forecasts that the United States will be producing more natural gas than it uses by 2022.
And over the next two decades under existing policies, the EIA predicts oil imports will steadily decline to about one-third of the U.S. total consumption amid increased domestic production, boosted fuel economy standards and the use of biofuels.
According to EIA, proposed fuel economy standards covering vehicles model years 2017 through 2025 would further reduce oil and petroleum imports. Romney has criticized those standards.
Analysts widely credit the oil industry for honing technology to extract natural gas and oil from dense rock formations — and say that is happening regardless of what happens in Washington, D.C.
In an April report that Romney cites as a foundation for his energy plan, Raymond James analysts Marshall Adkins and Pavel Molchanov note that “U.S. oil and gas companies have already overcome government road blocks _ i.e., the EPA _ and geological challenges to reverse a nearly four-decade-long decline in oil supply.”
Obama frequently stresses his support for an “all-of-the-above” energy strategy that balances environmental protection with domestic production of a wide range of sources.
White House press secretary Jay Carney noted that renewable energy production has doubled since Obama took office. “What distinguishes the president’s all-of-the-above approach to our energy future from the Republican approach is that the Republican approach is essentially one that is written by or dictated by Big Oil, and it focuses almost entirely on oil and fossil fuels.” Obama “believes that investing in renewable energy is essential to enhancing our energy independence,” Carney added.
Because much of America’s hunger for oil comes from the transportation sector, the fuel economy standards proposed by the Obama administration could go a long way to curtailing U.S. crude and petroleum consumption. According to the Obama campaign, new fuel efficiency standards for cars and light trucks through 2025 would reduce oil consumption by 2.2 million barrels daily.
Over the next five years, the Obama administration is planning 12 auctions of drilling leases in the Gulf of Mexico as well as three lease sales for territories around Alaska. Federal regulators also are on track to approve Shell Oil Co.’s plans to drill two wells in Arctic waters near Alaska, over fierce objections from environmentalists.
At the same time, the administration has promised to carefully pinpoint what Alaskan waters will be open for future drilling and pledged that the government will not sell drilling leases along the Atlantic or Pacific coasts over the next five years.
Romney said he would toss out Obama’s five-year drilling plan and replace it with one “that aggressively opens new areas for development, beginning with those off the coast of Virginia and the Carolinas.”
Both Romney and Obama have pledged to keep a close watch on the safety of offshore drilling. In the wake of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, Obama’s Interior Department dramatically reshaped the way the government oversees offshore energy development and created new regulations to bolster drilling safety. In his white paper on energy policy, Romney said he would “guarantee that state-of-the-art processes and safeguards for offshore drilling are implemented in a manner designed to support rather than block exploration and production.”
Drilling on federal lands:
Romney proposes putting states in control of energy development on federal lands within their borders, a major departure from the current approach that has the Interior Department in charge.
Romney’s idea plays well with the oil industry, which generally can count on more influence with state regulators in the West and other resource-rich regions. But it is a non-starter with moderates on Capitol Hill, who say states would be less likely to protect hunting, fishing, grazing and other uses of federal lands.
The Obama administration’s Interior Department has aimed to reduce litigation over energy development on public lands by carefully targeting what areas are available and ramping up statutorily required environmental analysis of leasing decisions. The strategy meant that in fiscal 2011, 36 percent of the Bureau of Land Management’s oil and gas leases were protested, down from 47 percent in 2009.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar previously has noted that regulators have pared the amount of time it takes them to review drilling applications.
Romney wants to ease regulations that he says have blocked alternative energy as well as development of traditional fossil fuels. He supports the renewable fuel standard and said he backs “eliminating regulatory barriers” that stand in the way of diversifying the electrical grid as well as the transportation sector.
While touting his energy plan Thursday, Romney told a crowd of supporters that the government shouldn’t be in the business of “picking winners and losers” _ a reference to tax incentives and grants aimed at alternative energy producers.
Under the Obama administration, federal regulators for the first time have approved an offshore wind farm that would be built along the Massachusetts coast. The administration also points to government approvals of 16 commercial-scale solar facilities and five wind projects on public lands.
Romney says he wants “measured reforms of environmental statues and regulations to strengthen environmental protection without destroying jobs, paralyzing industry or barring the use of resources like coal.” In general, he blames “overregulation, permitting delays, endless reviews and senseless litigation” with interfering all forms of energy production.