Intelligent Energy

Mitt Romney's energy plan: 3 critical points

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Mitt Romney's path to energy independence doesn't offer too many surprises. However, his energy plan does contain a few proposals that are worth noting.

Mitt Romney's energy plan doesn't stray far from the standard GOP position. And like Democrats and Republican politicans before him, Romney wants the nation--actually, North America as a whole--to achieve energy independence by 2020.

In Romney's view, that goal can be achieved by opening up offshore drilling; giving states broad control over energy production on federal lands; loosening regulations; the reforming nuclear power plant approval process; building pipelines like the 1,700-mile Keystone XL that will take oil sands from Alberta to refineries in the Gulf Coast; and by expanding partnerships with Canada and Mexico.

Romney's path to energy independence doesn't offer too many surprises. He has publicly floated many of these ideas in the past. And virtually all of them fall in line with the GOP's view of the world. However, his energy plan does contain a few proposals, one of which is in direct conflict with some in his own party, that are worth noting.

1. Ethanol is here to stay. Romney's position paper never actually mentions the controversial fuel. He doesn't need to. Within the paper, Romney says he "supports increased market penetration and competition among energy sources by maintaining the RFS and eliminating regulatory barriers to a diversification of the electrical grid, fuel system, or vehicle fleet."

The Renewable Fuel Standard, or RFS, which was signed into law by former President George W. Bush, requires more than 13 billion gallons of corn-based ethanol be blended into gasoline this year.

The ethanol industry cheered Romney's stance. Others, namely the governors of states that have a large livestock industry, are likely unhappy with the pro-ethanol stance. Governors from Arkansas, Georgia, New Mexico and North Carolina have asked the EPA to waive requirements for ethanol, in light of a drought that has damaged corn crops and sent prices higher.

2. Coal gets support. Romney's energy plan relies heavily on oil and gas. It also gives coal a leg up by dialing back environmental regulations that require coal-fired power plants to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. In his plan, Romney says he will work to "amend" the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act, two moves that would relax rules for coal-fired power plants and other large industrial emitters as well companies that use hydraulic fracturing to release gas trapped in shale.

3. Financing for clean energy projects is over. Romney's plan doesn't outline so much what he'll do about clean energy as much what he won't do. Romney would end loan guarantees and other subsidies for renewable energy projects. Some funds would then be redirected into basic federal research into new energy technologies. He also calls for streamlining permits and regulations, which he says will provide a boost to clean energy.

Photo: Wikicommons

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Kirsten Korosec

Contributing Editor

Kirsten Korosec has written for Technology Review, Marketing News, The Hill, BNET and Bloomberg News. She holds a degree from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. She is based in Tucson, Arizona. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure