Be afraid… Be terrified…
Let’s not mince words — we’re on thin ice. And it’s getting rapidly thinner. We’re breaking records faster than Usain Bolt but unfortunately we’re running top speed toward the endgame. Our place in the record books is beside titles like “hottest” and “driest” and “most rapidly warming.” This is the hottest year on record so far and today we learned that, “The Antarctic Peninsula is one of the fastest warming places on Earth at the moment.” This comes from an international team of climate scientists and the findings are just the latest in a stack that don’t bode well for a livable planet.
As Bill McKibben wrote in Rolling Stone last month, “Since I wrote one of the first books for a general audience about global warming way back in 1989, and since I’ve spent the intervening decades working ineffectively to slow that warming, I can say with some confidence that we’re losing the fight, badly and quickly — losing it because, most of all, we remain in denial about the peril that human civilization is in.”
Nowhere is that denial playing out more clearly than with the Romney-Ryan ticket. Here’s a look at their energy plan and their past record on the environment.
An Energy Plan for the 19th Century
The crux of Mitt Romney’s newly unveiled energy plan is “energy independence” — a phrase so bandied by politicians that it has lost all significance. In fact, according to Foreign Policy, it has been promised by every president since Nixon. So what’s different about Romney’s plan? Well not much, it’s mostly more of the same from the GOP “drill, baby, drill” crowd.
Before we get to the details of where exactly Romney hopes to drill (spoiler altert: watch out Virginia), here’s a crucial tidbit. As Philip Bump writes for Grist, “Romney pledges energy independence by 2020. It’s important to note, though, that he doesn’t pledge American energy independence by that date; rather, he proposes North American independence.”
This roughly translates to “you can’t build the Keystone XL pipeline fast enough.” (The plan also calls for instituting a “fast-track regulatory approval processes for cross-border pipelines and other infrastructure.”) And the unfortunate thing about calls for energy independence is that it’s a sham. Just because coal, gas and oil are mined and drilled on US soil (or under its waters), it doesn’t mean it will stay in this country. Just ask the group of folks in Montana who were arrested last week protesting the coal that’s being blasted from the mountains there only to be shipped to China. Then there is the new 25-year deal for West Virginians and Kentuckians to send their coal to India.
You know what type of energy is really hard to export? Solar and wind. But sadly, there’s not too much love for that in Romney’s plan, which is mostly stuck in the 19th century. There is no mention of cutting the billions of dollars in subsidies for Big Oil. What Romney does want is to be able to open up more federal (read: public) lands for fossil fuel extraction and he wants the federal government to have little oversight in this matter. Individual states should be able to handle the permitting, according to Romney. Apparently Romney’s energy advisors have failed to realize that pollution doesn’t stop at state borders. In perhaps the most radical part of his plan Romney he spells out that:
States will be empowered to establish processes to oversee the development and production of all forms of energy on federal lands within their borders, excluding on lands specially designated off-limits;
State regulatory processes and permitting programs for all forms of energy development will be deemed to satisfy all requirements of federal law;
Federal agencies will certify state processes as adequate, according to established criteria that are sufficiently broad, to afford the states maximum flexibility to ascertain what is most appropriate; and
The federal government will encourage the formation of a State Energy Development Council, where states can work together along with existing organizations such as STRONGER and the IOGCC to share expertise and best management practices
So, the faster we can drill and mine, and with the least regulatory oversight is best. Daniel J. Weiss wrote for Think Progress that, “a similar proposal was too radical even for arch conservative Arizona Governor Jan Brewer. She vetoed a bill turning all federal lands over to her state.”
Or as RLMiller summarized on Daily Kos:
Frack up federal lands, drill for polar bears, and trample sage grouse habitat! North Dakota can permit a gas well in 10 days because state regulators have been thoroughly captured and held hostage to Bakken field operators, isn’t that awesome? Because nothing says “federalism” like the state of Utah telling the federal government that it has no right to tell the state what to do on federal lands!
Don’t worry, all the drilling won’t just be taking place on land — offshore drilling is great, too, and we don’t need to go all the way to Alaska when we can begin by drilling right off the East coast. The plan calls for establishing, “A new five-year offshore leasing plan that aggressively opens new areas for development beginning with those off the coast of Virginia and the Carolinas.”
And of course all the drilling we do on the homefront still won’t protect us from higher gas prices. “As various energy experts have argued, there’s no such thing as ‘true’ oil independence,” writes Ezra Klein at the Washington Post. “Oil is traded on the world market. If tensions in the Middle East cause prices to spike, everyone is affected, regardless of where they get their crude. The easiest way to observe this is to look at Canada. Canada is a net oil exporter, a bona fide oil-independent nation. But gasoline prices in Canada still rise and fall in accordance with world events, just as they do in the United States or Japan or Europe.”
It seems that Romney is not all that good at math. He has a few more problems with numbers in his plan. As David Lazarus writes for the Los Angeles Times:
Following his plan, Romney says, would create 3 million new jobs, $1 trillion in government revenue, a stronger dollar and lower energy prices.
You gotta wonder why President Obama hasn’t figured all this out for himself.
Wait, what’s this? It’s a report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which says that 70% of the nation’s oil and gas reserves are already available for drilling.
Opening the rest for drilling, it says, would increase government receipts from an estimated $150 billion under current policy to $175 billion to $200 billion over the next 10 years.
Gosh, kind of makes you wonder where those millions of jobs and additional $800 billion in cash will come from.
The faults with Romney’s plan aren’t just with what he said, but it’s also with what he doesn’t say. There is zero mention of climate change. This isn’t surprising of course, because of the GOP’s politicizing of science, but it is still a shame. There is also no mention of the drought, which has affected half of the country this summer, and no mention of the critical role that freshwater plays in our every part of our lives — energy, included.
Partners in Crime
Like John McCain, Romney’s stance on environmental issues has gotten worse the higher he has climbed in the GOP. As Andrew Schenkel wrote last year for Mother Nature Network, “As governor of Massachusetts, Romney supported a carbon-trading pact among Northeastern states that, like his health care bill, served as a potential model for a national version. Romney even said of the plan, ‘I am convinced it is good for business.'” Is candidate Romney supporting anything close to that these days? Heck no!
He has even started to waffle and dodge on the issue of climate change’s mere existence. This has prompted Bill McKibben’s 350.org to issue a petition calling for Romney to come clean on his position on climate change and what he’d do solve the climate crisis.
All this is not too surprising considering his company these days. As Weiss wrote:
Romney’s energy team is comprised of oil and coal industry insiders, from oil billionaire Harold Hamm, the chair of Romney’s energy policy team — and $1 million donor to the conservative Restore Our Future Super PAC — to coal lobbyist Jim Talent, as well as retreads from the George W. Bush administration. Politico described it as “Bush energy advisors going to Romney.”
The tapping of Koch favorite Paul Ryan as Romney’s running mate leaves little to chance on how this ticket stacks up for the environment. Weiss again:
Both Romney’s plan and the House-passed Ryan budget would retain $2.4 billion in annual tax breaks for the big five oil companies — BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, and Shell — that made a record $137 billion in profits last year, and over $60 billion so far in 2012. Perhaps more outrageous is that the Romney-Ryan proposed cut in the corporate tax rate would provide a $2.3 billion tax cut for the big five oil companies. With the existing tax breaks, the big five companies would skim over $4 billion annually from the U.S. Treasury. …
The worldwide market for clean energy technologies will be $2 trillion by 2020. Yet Romney and Ryan would cede this market to other nations by opposing incentives to help emerging technologies grow to scale. Romney and Ryan oppose the extension of the Production Tax Credit to encourage wind energy. The PTC helped the U.S. double its wind electricity generation over the past four years, and ending it could cost at least 37,000 jobs this year. An American Wind Energy Association analysis predicts that New Mexico and Texas could lose up to 5,000 and 20,000 jobs, respectively, if the PTC expires.
Ryan solidifies the plan for helping Big Oil cronies. Over the 7 terms he has served in Congress, Ryan’s scorecard with the League of Conservation Voters has fallen from 27 percent to a dismal 3 percent. He has voted to deauthorize critical habitat for endangered species, is in favor of drilling in the Alaska’s prized Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, thinks we should sell off more federal lands. He doesn’t believe that the EPA should regulate greenhouse gases, or that we should have enforceable limits on global warming pollution. He has also voted against tax credits for renewable energy but also is against removing subsidies for oil and gas exploration.
So what does a Romeny-Ryan ticket look like for the environment? It looks like we’ll be on the fast-track to the top of the list for more “hottest” and “driest” records for our climate, while making sure Big Oil continues to top the “richest” lists as well. And the feeling’s mutual — the AP reported that Romney pocketed $7 million just this week from industry executives in Texas.