Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has revealed his detailed plans for energy policy in the U.S. if he is elected president.
The candidate's new energy white paper, titled ‘The Romney Plan For A Stronger Middle Class: Energy Independence,’ stresses domestic production of oil and gas onshore and offshore. Through this strategy, Romney predicts the U.S. can become energy-independent by 2020 and establish itself as ‘an energy superpower in the 21st century.’
The paper contains few specific mentions of solar power or other forms of renewable energy. However, several of Romney's proposals for removing regulatory hurdles to developing domestic sources of energy would likely apply to both fossil fuels and renewable energy sources.
For instance, states would be allowed to create their own rules to ‘oversee the development and production of all forms of energy on federal lands within their borders, excluding only lands specially designated off-limits,’ the paper explains. Federal agencies would classify state-level approval processes as adequate and allow them a great deal of flexibility in setting those procedures.
‘[F]rom oil and gas and coal, to wind and solar and biofuels, states are far better able to develop, adopt and enforce regulations based on their unique resources, geology and local concerns,’ Romney stated in the paper.
He added that ‘overregulation, permitting delays, endless reviews and senseless litigation’ under the Obama administration have consistently hampered domestic energy production over the past several years.
The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) applauded Romney's plans to reduce red tape at the federal level. Despite efforts by the Obama administration to speed permitting, utility-scale solar energy projects have been no stranger to regulatory hurdles and long-permitting timelines.
‘The barriers to energy independence aren't just technological; they are also regulatory,’ said SEIA President and CEO Rhone Resch in a statement. ‘But don't stop cutting at the federal level; state and local obstacles prevent Americans from choosing their energy sources today.’
Resch added that SEIA plans to continue to work with lawmakers of all political stripes in an effort to reduce barriers to energy deployment, from the national level down to the local level.
No picking winners
Romney, who took heat last month from many renewable energy advocates – and some fellow Republicans – for supporting an end to the wind energy production tax credit, emphasized in his white paper that he believes government should not provide ‘subsidies for an uncompetitive technology to survive in the market.’
Citing infamous failed solar manufacturer Solyndra and job losses in the wind energy sector, Romney called for a reduced, revised role of government spending in the renewable energy sector.
‘President Obama's poor understanding of the private sector has spilled directly into his energy policy, as he sought to have government play venture capitalist and spend billions of dollars subsidizing his chosen companies and technologies,’ he wrote in the white paper.
Instead, according to Romney, the private sector can take the lead on energy technology advancement, and government-related investment in energy should focus on ‘research across the full spectrum of energy-related technologies, not on picking winners in the market.’ With the U.S. Department of Energy, funding would concentrate on basic, early-stage research for new technologies.
SEIA voiced approval of Romney's acknowledgement that the federal government can help develop new energy sources but pointed out that all energy sources – including oil and natural gas – receive federal support.
‘According to a study this year by the Howard Baker Center at the University of Tennessee, federal support for solar deployment is consistent with federal support received by all other major energy sources,’ SEIA stated.
The full Romney white paper is available here.