Sunday, September 9, 2012

Mitt Romney's No Apology 9: Energy and Climate Change

In my latest reading of No Apology: Believe in America, Mitt Romney talked about energy and climate change.  In my opinion, Romney was all over the place in this chapter, as he went into different angles of the issue.  But my impression is that he's for reducing dependency on oil, for our oil supplies will not last forever, and our dependence on foreign oil leads us into compromising situations internationally.  Romney thinks that we can drill safely in offshore areas and in ANWR, but he talks a lot about the need to reduce our dependency on oil, and he supports nuclear energy, coal (whose carbon can be removed and stored, he said), and natural gas.

Romney wants to incentivize fuel-efficient cars through the tax system, and he's open to working on a proposal to impose a gas or carbon tax while balancing that off with some sort of tax cut----such as a reduction of the payroll tax.  Romney states that "The higher energy prices would encourage energy efficiency across the full array of American businesses and citizens."  Romney acknowledges that such a proposal could hurt people on fixed incomes, people who have to travel over sizeable distances, and people "in certain energy-intensive industries" (page 262), and so that's why he believes that the plan needs work.  This discussion stood out to me because I remembered Rush Limbaugh criticizing President Obama's energy secretary for reportedly saying that high gas prices are okay (see here).  Apparently, Romney and the conservatives who devised the plan see an upside to high energy prices.

Romney prefers alternative energy and incentivizing fuel-efficient cars to cap-and-trade and the government spending a lot of money to counter climate change.  According to Romney, cap-and-trade and government spending cost a lot of money that can be used for other things.  There are businesses that use a lot of carbon, and having to buy credits to do that would cost them a lot, and so they'd either pass on the cost to the consumers or locate to a country that does not have as many restrictions on carbon.  (Romney believes that cap-and-trade for other pollutants has been more workable and effective, yet he sees downsides to that as well, such as the unstable price of credits.)  And there are foreign regions that prefer to prioritize tackling other problems over climate change because it costs a lot to address climate change, and they feel that money can be better spent on other necessary causes.  Moreover, Romney does not believe that spending a lot of money to reverse climate change even succeeds in attaining its goal, at least not at the level that would justify the cost.

I did some online reading to see where we stand now on climate change.  Cap-and-trade was defeated.  The White House's current policy on climate-change did not strike me as overly rigorous, for it appeared to focus on reducing carbon emissions by the government while not discussing the private sector so much (see here).  The White House's web site does talk about clean energy, but I hope that we're actually going somewhere with that, rather than merely investing in companies that fail.  The web site says here, though, that renewable energy generation has doubled in the U.S. since 2008. 

And, according to this article, U.S. carbon emissions are at a 20-year low, due to such factors as "a mild winter, reduced gasoline demand, and the scaling back of coal-fired power in favour of new gas capacity", and those who support the gas industry contend that "America's shale gas boom has delivered environmental benefits by replacing more carbon-intensive coal-fired power" (the article's words).  But the article goes on to say that "climate scientists and green groups remain deeply concerned that while the switch to gas will deliver reductions in overall emissions it will fail to deliver the deep cuts necessary to curb climate change risks, arguing that new investment in gas infrastructure will lock the US into high levels of emissions for decades to come."

Although Mitt Romney has a history of supporting fuel-efficient automobiles, I tend to trust Barack Obama to be more committed to the issue of combating climate change, since Romney seeks to appease the right-wing.  But, to be honest, I'm not sure if enough can be done to combat it, especially in the current political climate----where so many people have to be appeased and radical measures are dismissed because they may have an adverse effect on the economy.  But, hopefully, something can be done----to reduce emissions and to prepare for the consequences of climate change.

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