By Paolo von Schirach
August 25, 2012
WASHINGTON – Mitt Romney has been criticized for being too vague on his plans for America, for trying to be all things to all people, shifting positions whenever convenient. Well, on energy issues he seems to have a coherent and sound platform. And its foundation is the obvious: America is in the middle of a fossil fuels renaissance.
Encourage US fossil fuels
This renaissance should be encouraged by appropriate public policy, so that abundant, domestic and cheaper energy will be used to fuel the US economy. Indeed, contrary to most prognostications, beyond vast amounts of coal, in the US there are huge new reserves of oil (North Dakota) and especially natural gas (Pennsylvania, Ohio, Texas). Gas reserves are in shale formations that now can be exploited via “hydraulic fracturing” and “horizonal drilling” technologies. If you add to this good mix super abundant oil resources located in Western Canada, the notion of hemispheric energy independence will turn soon from impossible dream into practical reality.
The implications of this energy revolution are immense. Vastly increased US oil and gas, plus more Canadian oil will allow the US to cease importing oil from the Middle East, or North Africa. This will be a huge plus from the standpoint of energy security and therefore national security.
Energy as economic growth driver
Romney’s vision is to encourage new investments in the US energy sector so that energy will become a real economic driver that will help lift the entire economy. Supporting extraction of US energy will create demand for products and services that feed the energy sector: such as machinery, pumps, drilling equipment, pipes, valves. The positive cycle will be extended to the revamping of all energy intensive industries (steel plants, smelters) that will be encouraged to either relocate to the USA or expand their American facilities. Keeping in mind that most of the energy technology is made and developed in America, supporting fossil fuels means supporting domestic investments in a variety of sectors, while creating many new jobs.
Romney’s plan is straight forward and easy to understand. It is based on the simple reality of major new discoveries in the USA, along with the recognition that its is in America’s national interest to import more oil from friendly Canada. (Or would you rather import oil from the Middle East and Venezuela?You can see how his positions are summarized in the www.mittromney.com website from which this excerpt is extracted:
“As president, Mitt Romney will make every effort to safeguard the environment, but he will be mindful at every step of also protecting the jobs of American workers. This will require putting conservative principles into action.
Significant Regulatory Reform
The first step will be a rational and streamlined approach to regulation, which would facilitate rapid progress in the development of our domestic reserves of oil and natural gas and allow for further investment in nuclear power.
- Establish fixed timetables for all resource development approvals
- Create one-stop shop to streamline permitting process for approval of common activities
- Implement fast-track procedures for companies with established safety records to conduct pre-approved activities in pre-approved areas
- Ensure that environmental laws properly account for cost in regulatory process
- Amend Clean Air Act to exclude carbon dioxide from its purview
- Expand NRC capabilities for approval of additional nuclear reactor designs
- Streamline NRC processes to ensure that licensing decisions for reactors on or adjacent to approved sites, using approved designs, are complete within two years
The United States is blessed with a cornucopia of carbon-based energy resources. Developing them has been a pathway to prosperity for the nation in the past and offers similar promise for the future.
- Conduct comprehensive survey of America’s energy reserves
- Open America’s energy reserves for development
- Expand opportunities for U.S. resource developers to forge partnerships with neighboring countries
- Support construction of pipelines to bring Canadian oil to the United States
- Prevent overregulation of shale gas development and extraction
Research and Development
Government has a role to play in innovation in the energy industry. History shows that the United States has moved forward in astonishing ways thanks to national investment in basic research and advanced technology. However, we should not be in the business of steering investment toward particular politically favored approaches. That is a recipe for both time and money wasted on projects that do not bring us dividends. The failure of windmills and solar plants to become economically viable or make a significant contribution to our energy supply is a prime example.
- Concentrate alternative energy funding on basic research
- Utilize long-term, apolitical funding mechanisms like ARPA-E for basic research”
As I said, this is pretty straightforward common sense. make it easy to extract fossil fuels now, while supporting basic R&D for renewable energy, without subsidizing early adoption of non competitive technologies. Work with Canada. Streamline the review process for new nuclear reactors.
Obama blindsided by love affair with renewables
This is mostly common sense. But we do not hear the same from the Obama camp. President Obama unfortunately started his term with a clear bias in favor of renewable energy. Until very recently he paid no attention to the unfolding shale gas revolution, a real gift to the US economy.
Worse yet, his administration kept on focusing on subsidized renewable energy even after it had become obvious that wind and solar simply cannot compete with ultra cheap domestic natural gas. Furthermore, Obama, fearful of offending the environmentalists, delayed the Keystone pipeline project that would allow larger amounts of Canadian crude to reach US refineries in Texas.
For the same reasons, Obama kept in place and even strengthened the review process for energy drilling on federal lands –a process that is time consuming, confusing and onerous.
There should be no contradiction between high environmental protection standards and a one stop review process that will avoid delays upon delays in obtaining all the necessary permits.
Obama has no clear energy plan
In the end is quite simple. Obama started with a bias in favor of renewable energy. His administration did not see the fossil fuel revolution happening in front of its eyes. When is saw it it did not support it. And what is Obama’s energy plan for his next four years? I am not sure.
Certainly the president now is trying to get some credit for a fossil fuels energy boom he did nothing to create. But will Obama in his second term streamline regulations and permitting? Will he welcome Canada as our most valuable strategic partner on energy, opening the way to more oil imports from the Alberta Province? Will Obama stop the nonsense of renewable energy mandates based on subsidies to energy sources that are not yet economically viable? Probably not.
The greens and the pure environmentalists who would rather forgo economic growth today in favor of energy alternatives that may become viable only in the future will not like it, but Romney has a real energy plan based on real US based resources that will create major new business opportunities and many new jobs.