October 10, 2012

Romney's Energy Plan

MIT hosted a debate on energy policy on Friday October 5th, with surrogates from the Romney and Obama campaigns.  The transcript is here

The debaters were:

Joseph Aldy, Special Asst. to the President for Energy and Environment in 2009 and 2010, Currently Harvard Kennedy School Faculty
Oren Cass, Domestic Policy Director for the Romney Campaign 

In the opening statement during the MIT Energy Debate, Romney's spokesperson, Oren Cass, sets the tone for the Romney campaign by stating  "Energy Policy is Economic Policy".

He makes it clear that the Romney administration will focus first on economics and that for a Romney administration protecting our clean air, clean water, the health of our families, and the health of our environment will not be a priority. 

This became clear at several points in the debate. Cass was asked "Is reducing carbon emissions from coal a legitimate end of the U.S. government?" 

His answer - No. 

Cass says Romney would also cut support for energy efficiency programs claiming that energy efficiency "is a solution looking for a problem." 

The Romney campaign also took the position that the wind production tax credit (PTC) should be canceled. Amazingly they argue that the reason to cancel the PTC is because (he claims) the wind industry lost 10,000 jobs during the Obama administration while the PTC was in effect - when in fact the jobs are being cut in anticipation of the cancellation of the PTC. 

Here is a short summary of Romney's Plan as presented by Cass during the debate. 

No support for reducing CO2 emissions. 
Cancel government support for renewable energy. 
Cancel government support for improving energy efficiency (weatherization) in our homes. 
Cancel recent energy efficiency standards for our automobiles.
Revoke mercury and air toxics standard. 

Drill, Baby, Drill especially on public lands. 

Support R&D - worthy R&D is defined as that R&D which is unlikely to attract investment from private sector

On the other hand, Romney does not want the federal government to support energy companies that private sector investors do not want to invest in

So if I understand correctly, R&D is ok, but providing support for moving that new technology to market isn't.  It appears Romney will only apply this standard to renewable energy companies, not for nuclear power. Meanwhile China is providing massive support to companies commercializing renewable technologies. Romney seems to think US companies don't need any help when trying to compete with their subsidized Chinese competition. Should we allow China to control the market for renewable technologies?

Cass claims that jobs created in the wind (and solar) industry actually destroyed or eliminated significantly more jobs elsewhere in the economy when many, many studies show that wind and solar create far more jobs per MWh than fossil fuel sources of energy. In fact three times as many. 

Cass states he believes it is important to preserve our natural spaces but - he thinks his 1 month old daughter won't travel to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) and if there are some oil rigs there she won't be disappointed. 

Cass says that clean coal should mean coal that does not emit conventional pollutants. Cass was then asked if the US government has a role in reducing CO2 emissions from coal.  His response - No.  

He claims that the costs of reducing mercury emissions outweigh the benefits. He called the Mercury and Air Toxics ruling protecting American's health "one of the most outrageously unjustified regulations this country has ever seen." The EPA estimates that for every dollar spent on the Mercury and Air Toxic reductions we will see between $3 and $9 in health benefits. 

On numerous occasions Cass argued against extending the wind power Production Tax Credit (PTC) claiming it would cost $12 billion a year. The NY Times reports that the PTC would cost $1 billion a year.  "Tax Credit in Doubt, Wind Power Industry is Withering" September 20, 2012. 

When asked about global warming - Cass said we can't do anything about a global problem by acting unilaterally, and if we attempt to do anything it will hurt our economy. His claim is wrong on so many levels (moral, health, environment, global politics, and yes economics) it boggles the mind. 

When Cass was asked what Romney would do about global warming - Cass talked for a while but did not answer the question - without saying anything beyond expressing Romney's faith in private sector innovation to solve the problem - he then asked what Obama would do.  

The moderator then asked again "What would Romney do?" - Cass said the Romney administration would focus on private sector innovation - and then tried to divert attention from his non-answer by asking again what Obama's position is. So the answer is clear - Romney would do nothing to address global warming. 

When asked about energy efficiency - Cass said that energy efficiency is "a solution in search of a problem". He stated that Romney's policy is to focus on oil and gas production rather than efficiency. 

When asked about reducing emissions - Cass said "Frankly, that is not where the Governor Romney would put his emphasis." He would like to eliminate federal regulation of oil and gas drilling and would pass that role to the states - who have been known to issue drilling permits with as little as "two weeks of review." 

The Obama spokesperson, Joseph Aldy, concluded the debate by suggesting that we should  "take a balanced approach, not a narrow approach that only focuses on fossil fuels, and that will actually be able to deliver a better planet, it'll deliver better jobs, more jobs, and it'll make us more robust and more resilient to any kind of shocks to our energy economy in the future."

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