FOR Oklahoma, no more important part of Mitt Romney’s agenda can be found than the energy component. The Romney energy plan rolled out Thursday lays the foundation for reducing dependence on foreign oil and unleashing the skills and expertise of state regulators and energy firms.
Speaking in the oilpatch city of Hobbs, N.M., Romney called for North American energy independence by 2020. That’s an ambitious goal, but the United States and Canada are rich in natural resources. The timeline could be affected by Democratic resistance and environmental activism. Nevertheless, this should not overshadow the goal itself of attaining continental energy independence in a matter of years.
The man who will get the Republican presidential nomination next week understands the importance of energy independence. More importantly, he understands the importance of fossil fuels. His November opponent touts an “all-of-the-above” energy policy, but Barack Obama’s administration is openly antagonistic to fossil fuels.
Indeed, one of the first reactions to the Romney plan was from a fellow traveler in the Obama “Big Oil” demonization camp: “Only two days after a fundraiser hosted by the CEO of major oil companies,” former Energy Secretary Federico Pena said, “Romney is expected to defend billions in oil subsidies while opposing efforts to use oil more efficiently and develop homegrown alternative energy.”
This is the divisive strategy that Obama himself frequently employs, pitting “Big Oil” against the people. The agency that Pena once ran is responsible for the Solyndra debacle, part of the “homegrown alternative energy” package that Obama pushes.
Romney isn’t opposed to renewable energy, but he knows it will take decades for renewables to account for a significant share of energy consumption.
Meantime, U.S. energy policy should focus on running this continent on fossil fuels that are actually produced here. To make this happen, Romney wouldn’t block the Keystone XL pipeline, as Obama has done. He wouldn’t try to take over state regulation of the energy and power industries, as Obama continues to try to do. States would have more latitude to issue permits for energy projects, even on federal lands.
A federal council would work with states to share “expertise and best management practices,” according to a Romney campaign white paper released Thursday. A component of this would be the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission, based in Oklahoma City.
Romney’s plan came under immediate attack by the usual suspects — partisan Democrats and environmental groups. Friendlier voices included T. Boone Pickens. His initial concerns about the plan included too little emphasis on natural gas. That fuel, he told The Oklahoman’s editorial board on Thursday, “will have to become the cornerstone” of a plan for energy independence.
The more Pickens discovered about the Romney plan, he said, the more he embraced it. Like Pickens, we recognize that the plan is a work in progress. It needs a greater focus on the demand side, including a push to run big trucks on fuels made from natural gas.
What sets the Romney plan apart from Obama’s bogus “all-of-the-above” approach isn’t its stress on a particular kind of fuel. It’s the emphasis on federalism — letting the states set policy and regulate the energy industry based on “their unique resources, geology and local concerns.” This is a hallmark of the differentiation between Romney and Obama on any number of policies, not just energy policy.
Romney’s plan has left the station. He’s on the right track, even if the track will need some realignment over the next few weeks.
Like Boone Pickens, we recognize that the Romney plan is a work in progress. It needs a greater focus on the demand side, including a push to run big trucks on fuels made from natural gas.