Presumptive Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Thursday unveiled an energy plan that he said would open more federal lands to oil and gas drilling and would make North America energy independent by 2020 -- the final year of his second term in office -- if he is elected this November.
"It is achievable," Romney said during a speech in Hobbs, NM. "This is not some pie in the sky kind of thing; this is a real, achievable objective."
According to a 21-page white paper released by his campaign, the Romney energy agenda would empower states to control onshore energy development; open offshore areas (beginning with those off the coast of Virginia and the Carolinas) for energy development; pursue a North American energy partnership; ensure accurate assessment of energy resources; restore transparency and fairness to permitting and regulation; and facilitate private sector-led development of new energy technologies.
Romney called for significant regulatory reform, including amending the Clean Air Act to exclude carbon dioxide from its purview and streamlining Nuclear Regulatory Commission processes to ensure that licensing decisions for reactors are completed within two years. And the plan calls for approval of the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline, which the Obama administration denied this year on the recommendation of the U.S. State Department (see NGI, Jan. 23).
The energy plan would help turn the United States into "an energy superpower," creating more than three million jobs, adding more than $500 billion to the country's gross domestic product and producing more than $1 trillion in revenue for federal, state and local governments, according to the Romney campaign.
Democrats scoffed at the Romney plan's reliance on oil, gas and coal. "We will never reach energy independence by turning our backs on homegrown renewable energy and better auto mileage," Clinton administration energy secretary Federico Pena said in a statement released by the Obama campaign.
But energy industry groups applauded the plan. It "makes for a stronger United States," according to the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA). "It unleashes the potential of America's independent producers, which will result in millions of jobs, revenues to federal, state and local governments and a more secure United States," said IPAA Chairman Virginia Lazenby. "It incorporates the appropriate role of government in energy policy, which must be to promote energy development, rather than stifle it by overwhelming or threatening regulations and destructive legislation."
The Western Energy Alliance (WEA) said Romney's plan, like WEA's "Blueprint for Western Energy Prosperity," recognizes that empowering states "is the right way to increase American energy, create jobs and grow the economy...by empowering states and modernizing bureaucratic processes, our nation can unlock energy resources on non-park, non-wilderness federal lands while achieving a better balance between economic growth and environmental protection."
The goal of energy independence has been a part of presidential politics for decades. In the wake of the OPEC oil embargo, President Richard Nixon in 1973 said the United States would achieve energy independence within seven years.
During the 2008 presidential campaign, Democratic nominee Barack Obama said the United States could produce enough renewable energy to replace all U.S. imports of oil within 10 years, and Republican nominee John McCain called for a "drill now, drill here" solution to the nation's energy woes (see Daily GPI, Aug. 11, 2008; June 23, 2008).
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