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Romney Energy Plan: More Drilling, More Oil Dependence

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Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney unveiled his energy plan today [PDF]. The idea is to break our addiction to foreign oil -- by increasing our addiction to domestic oil. If by "domestic" we mean Canada, Mexico, and the U.S.

Essentially, the plan is to go bananas on oil drilling. States would have the right to drill off their own shores, with merely a federal rubber stamp. Grist's Philip Bump explains why oil drilling isn't something that should be left to the states:

There’s a reason that the federal government has a legitimate role in monitoring extraction and resource development: Pollution and impacts don’t stop at state lines. It’s why the EPA is trying to figure out how to regulate cross-state air pollution. Air doesn’t care about borders.

And then there’s the obvious problem: Do residents of Florida want Georgia to build a series of unsafe oil derricks off its coast? Will any state still want to border Texas? Hard to see how this doesn’t result in a production boom — of complaints and lawsuits filed in federal courts.

There's nothing in the document about reducing fossil fuel consumption. That just doesn't figure in. No examination of how the nation uses energy and how it could use less.

"By 2025, [Obama's] increased CAFE standards are expected to reduce U.S. oil consumption by about 2.2 million barrels per day," Brad Plumer writes in the Washington Post. "Without those rules, energy independence looks nearly impossible. And Romney, for his part, has pledged to overturn those fuel-economy rules." To say nothing of Paul Ryan's plan to continue outdated policies that enable sprawl and eliminate federal transportation programs that don't involve highways.

Romney's plan is just about ending imports from the Middle East. That's it. It won't protect consumers from volatile gas prices, it won't curb greenhouse gas emissions, it won't make our cities better places, it won't protect farmland -- all things a real energy policy would do.

As Rachel Maddow said on her show in 2010, “Energy independence is not the issue. The issue is dependence on oil, period. And it's an important distinction because we are at a point where we actually need to do something about our dependence on oil.”

No, Romney wants to get off Middle Eastern oil by replacing it with good old fashioned American oil -- North American, anyway. He wants to pursue a North American Energy Partnership with oil powerhouses Mexico and Canada, the top two producers in the hemisphere (above even Venezuela). To do that, of course, it would help to have a massive pipeline connecting us to their oil -- ring any bells? The Keystone XL pipeline would do the trick just fine, says the Romney document.

Philip Bump also notes that Romney's plan includes a government mandate to update seismic surveys and other geological assessments. "By arguing that the government should do these surveys, Romney proposes shifting the cost of determining likely areas [for drilling] from the companies to the government," Bumps writes. "Pretty neat."

Romney's plan for renewables is, essentially, that if the private sector wants to, they can have at it. But there will be no subsidies for renewable energy sources, no national priority on actually achieving oil independence -- just foreign oil independence, with the definition of "foreign" being a little fuzzy.

Not surprised that a Romney presidency would be friendly to big oil and gas interests? This may not surprise you either: "Mr. Romney has raised considerable money from donors with ties to the oil industry," wrote Clifford Krauss and Ashley Parker in the New York Times yesterday. "Over the past two days, he pulled in nearly $10 million in oil money: $6 million to $7 million Tuesday from two fund-raisers in Texas (in Houston and Midland), and $2 million at a fund-raiser Wednesday in Little Rock, Ark. Claiborne P. Deming, who introduced Mr. Romney at the Arkansas event and is a finance co-chairman in the state, is chairman of Murphy Oil, a global gas and oil company." That explains it.

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