By Philip Warburg
Mitt Romney indulges in energy policy doublespeak when he says that he wants to “make sure we can continue to burn clean coal.” This is the same politician who seeks to revoke the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants and other sources of global-warming pollutants.
Romney’s Flip-Flop On Climate Protection
How exactly does Mr. Romney propose to clean up coal plants if he refuses to let the EPA control America’s biggest contributors to global warming? In Massachusetts v. EPA, the Supreme Court made it clear that regulating carbon emissions lies within the EPA’s purview under the Clean Air Act. The EPA acted on that ruling earlier this year by setting carbon dioxide emissions standards for new coal-fired power plants.
This step was long overdue for a nation that outpaces all others except China in its generation of global-warming gases. The United States managed to avoid joining the battle against climate change when the Senate refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol during the Clinton years.
Yet it was Governor Mitt Romney who, in 2004, rolled out an ambitious Climate Protection Plan setting specific targets for reducing Massachusetts’ greenhouse gas emissions. That plan acknowledged that, over the long term, we will need to cut global-warming emissions by 75 to 85 percent “to eliminate any dangerous threat to the climate.”
By the time Romney issued his Climate Protection Plan, scientists had already amassed formidable evidence that the earth’s atmospheric temperature was rising. Romney’s plan acknowledged this, and warned that global temperatures could increase 5 to 9 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100. At that rate, vast stretches of heavily populated coastal areas around the world will be flooded, semi-arid regions will become parched deserts, and already over-stressed freshwater supplies will be strained beyond the breaking point.
Yet today, when Romney presents his energy vision for the nation, he dismisses the need for America to shrink its carbon footprint. To the contrary, he wants us to extract and burn more coal, “aggressively” develop our offshore oil and gas resources, and expedite onshore drilling by stripping the federal government of its powers to review mineral leases on public lands. At the same time, he belittles the role that renewable resources like wind and solar can play in weaning America off these polluting fuels.
Romney Derides Green Jobs
When Richard Nixon, in the wake of the 1973 Arab oil embargo, called for a national energy plan that would make America 100 percent energy-independent by 1980, solar energy was only mentioned as a distant prospect and wind wasn't mentioned at all. Mitt Romney cannot fall back on that reasoning at a time when the National Renewable Energy Laboratory has projected that we can get half our total power needs from wind and solar by 2050 using technology that is commercially available today.
In the first presidential debate, Romney derided President Obama’s $90 billion investment in “green jobs.” He charged that half the companies benefiting from U.S. clean energy support have gone out of business. His campaign later admitted that he was referring only to a much smaller program that has provided loan guarantees to businesses seeking to advance clean energy projects.
Fact Check Shows Romney’s Claim of Green Companies’ Failure Overblown
Yet of the 33 companies assisted by that smaller program, only a few have declared bankruptcy, including the much-decried solar panel manufacturer Solyndra. Total revenue losses from loan defaults are expected to remain far below the $2.47 billion that Congress set aside when it created the program. That’s quite remarkable for an initiative explicitly designed to help under-capitalized companies move transformative technology into the marketplace.
President Obama rightly warned in the second presidential debate that if America is to keep pace with European and Asian energy innovators, we need to forge ahead with 21st century technology, not just fall back on holdovers from the past century.
It behooves Mitt Romney to embrace this challenge as well.
Democrats and Republicans: The Choice on Energy