Sometimes, it’s hard to remember just how much Mitt Romney has changed since he was a moderate governor of Massachusetts. Indeed, given his move toward the center during this month’s three presidential debates, he seems to be betting on voters’ short memories. But reading through the climate change plan his administration put out in 2004, the second year of his governorship, provides a startling reminder to anyone who begins to doubt his ideological promiscuity.
Then, as now, Romney argued for a “no regrets” policy for cutting greenhouse gas emissions. But, though Romney has remained relatively consistent on global warming throughout the 2012 election cycle, the content of his no-regrets policy has changed radically since 2004.
The third page of the proposal, to which Romney affixed his signature, boasts that the climate plan is the first ever in Massachusetts, and that it is “among the strongest in the nation.” The fifth page is headlined, “THE NEED FOR ACTION IS NOW.” The sixth details the potential impacts of climate change on coastal Massachusetts. And it gets only greener from there.
The plan sets “tough” emissions-reduction targets, cutting greenhouse gases to 1990 levels by 2010, to 10 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, and to 75 to 85 percent below 1990 levels in the long term.
It recommends educating the public about the “greenhouse gas impacts of electricity generation,” the opposite of what Romney is doing in his current, coal-promoting presidential campaign.
It endorses using regulations “to reduce greenhouse gases and other pollutants from older power plants,” which is what Romney viciously attacks the Obama Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for doing now.
It proposes to “create an emissions trading and banking program,” and to “participate in and support the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative,” a multistate carbon-trading scheme. That is, a cap-and-trade program.
It discusses partnering a renewable energy trust with the Office of Commonwealth Development “to fund climate change initiatives,” which is a policy like the one that funded Solyndra.
The plan, finally, recommends enforcing “stronger vehicle emissions standards,” which Romney this election cycle has harshly criticized President Obama for doing on the federal level.
Cap and trade, regulation, government spending — there’s not too much a climate activist would miss in a program like the one Romney proposed eight years ago, and there is much in it that Obama either endorsed or implemented in his first term. Romney’s shift from that to bashing cap and trade, attacking the EPA, bemoaning car emissions standards and praising carbon-heavy coal is breathtaking, and only more so because he uses the same words — no regrets policy — to describe all the positions he has taken on cutting greenhouse gases. As ever, if there is one thing Romney’s record demonstrates, it is that he will respond aggressively to the political incentives placed directly in front of him, seemingly no matter how ridiculous the result.