Obama vs. Romney: Where their energy policies differ

September 11, 2012

Here are some of the highlights of the energy positions of Mitt Romney and President Obama. There are similarities. Both candidates favor expanded oil and gas drilling and support the development of natural gas resources, even with the use of controversial hydraulic fracturing techniques. Obama says he favors an “all of the above” strategy and wants to further reduce U.S. reliance on foreign oil. Romney says he would aim for “North American energy independence,” leaning heavily on increased imports from Canada and higher U.S. output. But they part ways in many important respects:

Romney

●Strip the Environmental Protection Agency of the power to regulate carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that the Supreme Court has ruled part of the agency’s Clean Air Act mandate.

●Strip the Interior Department of the ability to lease and issue permits for drilling on federal lands and waters. Romney would give that power to states, which he says will issue permits more efficiently and quickly.

●Eliminate the production tax credit for wind projects.

●Maintain the federal mandate for ethanol use. While not a subsidy, this mandate orders refiners to use minimum amounts of ethanol.

●Open all federal lands and waters for drilling, including the entire Pacific and Atlantic coasts as well as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

●Keep tax incentives and tax breaks for oil and gas drilling. These amount to about $4 billion a year.

●Approve the Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry oil sands from Canada to the Texas gulf coast, on day one of his administration.

●Remove obstacles and EPA regulations that Romney says are impeding the development of coal.

Obama

●Has sharply raised federal standards for fuel efficiency of cars and light trucks. Romney opposes the fuel efficiency standards.

●Would maintain the EPA’s power to regulate carbon dioxide emissions, though the EPA has not yet exercised such authority.

●Seek to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels because of climate change concerns. The EPA has negotiated agreements with some utilities to close down aging coal plants, many of which have been replaced by natural gas-fired plants.

●Maintain incentives for renewable energy; wind and solar-powered generation has doubled in size during his administration.

●Eliminate the $4 billion a year of oil and gas tax breaks.

●Open more offshore areas for drilling, off the coast of Virginia for example, and support drilling on existing leases in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas off Alaska. But Obama would maintain the drilling moratorium off the Pacific coast and most of the Atlantic coast. And Interior would keep its leasing authority.

●Obama has approved the southern leg of the Keystone XL, but he remains undecided about the northern leg and is letting the State Department carry out its role in weighing whether the pipeline is in the national interest. That process should be complete early next year.

●Obama supports the use of hydraulic fracturing in drilling, but seeks federal safety standards. The EPA, in conjunction with major exploration companies, has drawn up environmental guidelines. Romney favors letting states regulate hydraulic fracturing.

Steven Mufson covers energy and other financial news.
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