Apples to Oranges

We’re entering the final stretch of Presidential campaigning and energy is one of the top issues that continue to be brought up by both President Obama and Governor Romney.  Both men have reiterated their support of “homegrown” sources of energy in order to provide greater energy security for the country, but differences arise when it comes to their overall energy policies.

To cut through the cable news punditry that’s proliferating on the subject of each’s energy policy, here’s a quick reference guide:

Governor Romney

Mitt Romney’s proposed energy policy focuses on decreasing environmental regulation of energy while increasing production of domestic carbon-based energy resources in the hopes of creating jobs and bolstering the economy with lower prices for energy.

Specific points of his plan include “amending the Clean Air Act to exclude carbon dioxide from its purview” – meaning there would be no government attempt to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants in a Romney administration. When Mr. Romney was governor of Massachusetts, however, he did sign on to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a pact among east coast states (including Maryland) to reduce greenhouse gases from power plants. Other points of Romney’s plan include “preventing overregulation of shale gas development and extraction” and “opening America’s energy reserves for development”.  Romney has also weighed in on the renewable energy Production Tax Credit (PTC), saying he would end the credit.


Shale gas development, otherwise known as “fracking” is an especially hot button issue in our region, due to the Marcellus Shale formation in the Mid-Atlantic.  Numerous studies have shown that natural gas fracking can be quite harmful and dangerous to the surrounding environment, including contamination of aquifers and the release of methane, an extremely potent greenhouse gas – not to mention the devestation to property values after entering fracking leases. This is an issue that deserves more study.


President Obama

President Obama coined the “all of the above” term earlier this year in his State of the Union address when he said “We can’t have an energy strategy for the last century that traps us in the past. We need an energy strategy for the future – an all-of-the-above strategy for the 21st century that develops every source of American-made energy.”  Some concerned citizens criticize the President for seeming to support increased use of fossil fuels in power plants when he ran on a platform that was very “green energy heavy”.  But his energy policy does pay specific attention to expanding clean energy resources as well as improving energy efficiency in our transport network and infrastructure.


President Obama was in Iowa this week stumping for domestic wind power, citing the Department of Energy’s recently released 2011 Wind Technologies Market Report.  According to the report, domestic wind power accounted for 32 percent of all new electric capacity added to the U.S. grid last year while generating thousands of jobs.  The report also found that over 70 percent of equipment installed at U.S. wind farms came from U.S. manufacturers, including the turbines and supporting towers, blades, gears, and generators.  This has helped to create the roughly 75,000 wind related jobs (which coincidentally is about the same size as the domestic coal industry) in the country, spurring a growing domestic industrial base.


Those who oppose the PTC argue that it has not led to real job growth or significant energy production.  However, facts seem to refute his stance.  In addition to creating thousands of new jobs, technological improvements to wind turbines that have yielded larger turbines and lighter blades have caused the price of wind power to drop precipitously in just the past few years.  According to the Department of Energy, the price of power from new wind projects that came online in 2011 averaged about 40 percent less than in 2010 and 50 percent less than in 2009.  Domestic wind power production also just hit the symbolic 50 gigawatt capacity last week – or enough to power 13 million homes.

Neither candidate seems focused on the billions that the much larger (and much richer) fossil fuel industry receives in tax credits and rebates from the Federal government every year.  Also, neither candidate seems willing to tell Americans the hard truth – that our dependence on fossil fuels is a major contributor to climate change. The drought in the middle of the country is showing us the economic and human devastation we face if we do not address climate change seriously.

Energy literally powers our daily lives and has outsize effect on the health of the economy so it deserves to be top of mind when considering whom to support in the upcoming election.