Conservative media outlets are praising Mitt Romney's newly released energy plan, claiming it will lower gas prices, create jobs, and "make America an energy superpower." But experts say Romney's goal of energy independence by 2020 is a "pipe dream" and that his plan overlooks environmental consequences and fails to address the real obstacle to U.S. energy security: our dependence on oil.
Romney's Energy Plan Hailed By Conservative Media
Fox's Hannity: Romney's Plan Will Lower Gas Prices And "Create Jobs." On his Fox News show, Sean Hannity praised Romney for coming out with "a real energy plan that will lower the price of a gallon of gasoline, lessen our dependence on foreign oil, and create jobs." He added later that "if we would have implemented [Romney's plan] four years ago ... we would have been energy self-sufficient." [Fox News, Hannity, 8/23/12]
Fox's Varney: If U.S. Adopted Romney's Plan, "We Would Be On The Road To Energy Independence." On his Fox Business show, Stuart Varney said of Romney's plan:
VARNEY: If we'd have done that four years ago, our dependence on foreign oil and foreign energy would be today far less than it is.
We would be importing far less. We would be on the road to energy independence. [Fox Business, Varney & Co., 8/24/12]
Wall Street Journal: Proposed Reforms Are "On The Mark." The Wall Street Journal editorial board acknowledged that energy independence is "a patently political soundbite," but went on to say that Romney's energy plan is "on the mark," calling it "an unusually sane document, in contrast to the fad-obsessed tradition of the last 40 years." The Journal went on to say that Romney's policies would help markets "apply their inventiveness to keep supplies growing and prices low." [Wall Street Journal, 8/23/12]
Forbes: "The Romney Plan Is Keystone Times Ten In Terms Of Economic Opportunity." Forbes columnist Mark Mills applauded Romney's energy plan because it "focuses on producing more hydrocarbons" and "avoids the politically easy rhetoric about this being a necessary bridge to some alternative energy future." He concludes that "The Romney plan is Keystone times ten in terms of economic opportunity." [Forbes, 8/23/12]
National Review Calls Romney Plan "Excellent." National Review columnist Kevin Williamson wrote:
Mitt Romney has released an updated energy plan, and other than the presence of a very stupid phrase in its title -- "Energy Independence" -- it is excellent: liberalizing the permitting process for petroleum exploration and extraction and putting the states in charge of inland projects (though that probably means kissing California's Monterey shale goodbye), all with an eye toward the long-term investment that is the source of real economic growth.
Romney and the Republicans have a winner in this issue: This isn't green dreams and Solyndra vapor -- we know where the oil and gas are, and we know how to get them. [National Review, 8/23/12]
Investor's Business Daily: "Romney Plan Would Make America An Energy Superpower." An Investor's Business Daily editorial claimed that the U.S. can achieve energy independence with "leadership and some serious policies, which are there in abundance in the Romney plan." The headline declared "Romney Plan Would Make America An Energy Superpower." [Investor's Business Daily, 8/23/12]
The Oklahoman: Romney Is "On The Right Track." An editorial in The Oklahoman praised Romney's plan for "lay[ing] the foundation for reducing dependence on foreign oil and unleashing the skills and expertise of state regulators and energy firms." It added:
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. [The Oklahoman, 8/24/12]
But Experts Call Romney's Path To Energy Independence A "Pipe Dream"
Expert Michael Levi: "Achieving Energy Independence Through Expanded Supplies Is A Pipe Dream." Michael Levi, an energy expert at the Council on Foreign Relations, wrote in Foreign Policy:
The plan also promises "freedom from dependence on foreign energy supplies." As I explained in a Foreign Policy essay earlier this year, achieving energy independence through expanded supplies is a pipe dream. So long as the United States is part of a global market, domestic crude prices will rise in the face of turmoil overseas, putting the U.S. economy at risk and constraining U.S. freedom of action. The only way to break that link without clashing U.S. oil consumption is to bar energy exports from the United States altogether -- something that Romney, quite correctly, has explicitly opposed. Indeed, one study that the Romney plan cites extensively to back its energy independence claims says the that self-sufficiency "will neither insulate the country from the rest of the global oil market, nor diminish the critical importance of the Middle East to its foreign policy." [Foreign Policy, 8/23/12]
Citigroup Report Cited By Romney Plan Notes That Estimates Are Based On A "Good-Case Scenario." A Citigroup report heavily cited by the Romney plan states that the oil output and the economic benefits it projects are based on a "good-case" scenario and do not take into account "regulatory impediments" and other factors. It goes on to say that even if the U.S. produces more oil and gas then it consumes, it will not be protected from "price spikes and volatility" in the global market:
[T]hese numbers are only estimates based on a "good-case" scenario for technological and geological breakthroughs powering future hydrocarbon production and reduced consumption, a vision that may falter from regulatory impediments and other risks as discussed above. And even if North America or the US were to become a net exporter of oil and hydrocarbons, the integrated nature of the global oil and gas market and imbalances between the domestic consumers and producers of hydrocarbons means price spikes and volatility will always bring with it economic dislocation and costs. [Citigroup, 3/20/12]
Co-Author Of Romney-Cited Report Says Government "Has Very Little Effect" On U.S. Oil Production. Pavel Molchanov, a co-author of the Raymond James report cited in Romney's energy plan, told Politico that reaching energy independence by 2020 would not be something a president could control:
"It's due to the U.S. oil industry, which has mastered the very technically sophisticated skill set of developing these unconventional oil resources [...] President Obama will take credit for an increase in oil supply. Gov. Romney will insist he can accelerate the trend. In actuality these are issues the U.S. government has very little effect on." [Politico, 8/23/12]
Even With Domestic Restrictions Removed, U.S. Would Still Need Imported Oil. Many experts and industry analysts have stated it is impossible for the U.S. to achieve 'energy independence' by increasing domestic oil production. In 2009, the U.S. Energy Information Administration estimated that the U.S. would still be importing 41 percent of the oil it uses in the year 2030 even if the Pacific and Atlantic coasts and eastern Gulf of Mexico were opened up to drilling. [Media Matters, 3/31/11] [Energy Information Administration, March 2009]
Forbes' Helman Calls Romney's Plan To Eliminate Oil Imports "Highly Unlikely." Forbes' Christopher Helman explained why Romney's goal of eliminating oil imports is unrealistic:
This kind of plan is music to the ears of not just the fossil fuel industry but also to any energy intensive manufacturers. But is it realistic? Could the U.S. really increase oil production enough to eliminate imports altogether? It's highly unlikely. Researchers at WoodMackenzie figure that breakneck development of the Bakken and Eagle Ford plays will help grow production of unconventional oil in the U.S. from 1.5 million bpd now to 4.1 million bpd by 2020. This is in itself a miracle. But we import 9 million bpd now. That means drillers would have to find and develop another 5 million barrels per day of domestic oil, while continuing to fight declining production from older fields. This will not happen by 2020, and probably not ever. [Forbes, 8/23/12]
Analysts Say Energy Independence Is "Irrelevant" Unless We Reduce Oil Consumption
"Energy Independence" Wouldn't Insulate U.S. From Oil Price Volatility. Experts say that because the price of oil is dictated by the global market, expanding U.S. production would not protect against price spikes. A report from the Energy Security Leadership Council criticized "the myth of energy independence," stating that "the concept of energy security through self-sufficiency in supply alone ignores America's true vulnerability as an oil consumer, driving policymakers toward a goal that is fundamentally misguided." [Media Matters, 5/21/12]
Harvard Paper Cited By Romney Plan Says Energy Independence Is "Irrelevant." A Harvard paper selectively cited in Romney's plan points out that self-sufficiency would not "insulate the United States from the rest of the global oil market":
[T]he Western Hemisphere could return to a pre-World War II status of theoretical oil self-sufficiency, and the United States could dramatically reduce its oil import needs.
However, quasi oil self-sufficiency will neither insulate the United States from the rest of the global oil market (and world oil prices), nor diminish the critical importance of the Middle East to its foreign policy. At the same time, countries such as Canada, Venezuela and Brazil may decide to export their oil and gas production to markets other than the U.S. for purely commercial reasons, making the notion of Western Hemisphere self-sufficiency irrelevant. [Harvard University, June 2012]
Levi: Plan's "Biggest Problem" Is Doing Nothing To Address Oil Consumption. The Council on Foreign Relations' Michael Levi points out that unless we reduce our oil consumption, the U.S. "remains vulnerable to global oil markets":
The biggest problem with the plan, though, is not what it does or promises -- it's what it leaves out. The United States remains vulnerable to global oil markets and constrained in its foreign policy because of its massive consumption of oil from all sources. Yet the Romney energy strategy does nothing to address this Achilles heel aside from promising to continue support for basic research. [Foreign Policy, 8/23/12]
Experts Criticize Romney Plan For Excluding Fuel Efficiency Standards. Energy experts say that the only way to reduce our vulnerability to supply disruptions and price volatility is to use less oil. But Romney opposes fuel efficiency standards that reduce our consumption. R. James Woolsey, former senior energy and national security adviser to Sen. John McCain during his presidential bid, told the Christian Science Monitor that Romney's plan has "some good elements" but that the plan "could have curbed OPEC's power simply by requiring vehicles to be able to use more than one fuel." Gal Luft, a senior adviser to the United States Energy Security Council, added: "The only thing that can bring down prices is fuel competition and cars that allow it." [Christian Science Monitor, 8/23/12]
Romney's Plan Criticized For Ignoring Environmental Consequences
Levi: "It Isn't Reasonable To Ignore" Climate Change In Energy Discussion. The Council on Foreign Relations' Michael Levi criticizes the Romney plan for its silence on climate change:
The plan is also mum on the other grave energy challenge the country faces: climate change. Reasonable people can differ on how much emphasis to place on climate change in U.S. energy policy, but it isn't reasonable to ignore it entirely. The Romney plan does not mention climate at all. To be certain, surging production of natural gas can help curb U.S. emissions, but it will come nowhere close to delivering the reductions the country needs alone. Romney likes to quip that people "do not call [climate change] America warming, they call it global warming," his way of saying that climate change can't be confronted unilaterally. But his plan does not include a multilateral strategy either -- something that other Republicans could easily have helped him craft." [Foreign Policy, 8/23/12]
Brookings Energy Analyst Criticized Lack of Carbon Pricing In Romney Plan. In a post published the week Romney's plan was announced, Kevin Massy, Assistant Director of the Energy Security Initiative at the Brookings Institution, criticized Romney's plan for failing to address carbon emissions:
[T]here are some real issues in the energy sector that the next president will have to address. The most important of these is that of carbon pricing. While neither candidate is touching the subject of emissions at the moment (the only references to carbon in Mr. Romney's manifesto are to attack Mr. Obama's policies and the intention to amend the Clean Air Act; Mr. Obama's campaign materials highlight land and water conservation, but not carbon emissions), it is one that the U.S. leadership will have to face - not just to address an urgent, existential global problem or to retain any standing in the international community, but to provide the certainty to attract investment from businesses that recognize the inevitable necessity of internalizing the costs of greenhouse gasses. [National Journal, 8/22/12]
Letting States Drill On More Federal Lands "Could Encourage Production That Could Pollute Waters Or Air." Michael E. Webber, associate director of the Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy at the University of Texas at Austin, told The New York Times that Romney's plan to grant states greater authority over onshore energy development by giving them more control over drilling on public lands could have dire environmental consequences:
"This step would be a change in national policy direction going back at least 50 years, giving control over national assets to localities. Local decision makers could inhibit production that could be against the national interest or could encourage production that could pollute waters or air in another state." [The New York Times, 8/23/12]