Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s energy plan, unveiled today, doesn’t break a lot of new ground. It’s really a short-term strategy for getting through the next four years, which is pretty much what most so-called energy plans are these days.
As you might expect, Romney’s plan is oil-and-gas centric, promoting more drilling offshore and vowing to speed it up onshore, especially on federal lands. In fact, Romney would turn over regulation of federal lands to the states for energy purposes.
That’s nothing more than a sloppy wet kiss to energy companies, who have a lot more sway over state regulators, especially in oil rich states, than they do with federal agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency.
Despite that, Romney’s overall approach makes sense as far as it goes. Expanding offshore drilling is necessary — but it has to come with stricter safety standards that are actually enforced. Romney also calls for approving the Keystone Pipeline, which seems an oddly specific detail for an energy plan. As I’ve said before, the feds should approve the Keystone deal, although that still doesn’t mean the pipeline will be built.
He even makes some token nods to alternative fuels, such as wind and solar, and throws his support behind the ethanol mandate, which while not surprising, is a policy that is likely to become increasingly irrelevant. (I’ll have more on the ethanol mandate in Friday’s column.)
The big problem with the Romney plan is that it throws around phrases like “energy independence,” which it predicts we’ll achieve by 2020. Such talk is more political pandering than a realistic energy outlook, and its one that President Obama has engaged in too.
It ignores the fact that energy is a global market, and that despite increases in domestic production, the U.S. is facing an increasingly competitive battle for energy as energy demand rises globally. Globally, supply isn’t rising fast enough to meet that demand.
Romney, like Obama, sees energy as a means to job creation in the short term, but that misses the point. Energy is about economic stability over the long term. We need to use the rise in domestic production to help diversify our energy sources.
The increase in domestic production offers us some breathing room, but it doesn’t change the fundamentals of the global market or the energy issues facing the country.
As I wrote earlier this year, in response to Obama’s energy initiatives the State of the Union speech:
Politicians from both parties ignore the data and fan the delusions of newfound abundance. That’s politically more appealing than the truth: the solutions to our conundrum are complicated, they’ll take decades to achieve, and they aren’t likely to get anyone elected in November.
More content on Romney’s energy plan: