Romney, Obama Surrogates Spar Over Energy Policy

On Wednesday of this week, representatives from both the Obama and Romney campaigns debated issues of energy and environment, where the two campaigns’ differences on issues ranging from renewable energy subsidies to approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline were on full display.

Speaking for the Obama campaign, spokesperson Dan Reicher told us that the President believes that U.S. tax dollars can be used effectively to bolster development and investment into renewable energy technologies.

Linda Stuntz, Romney’s spokesperson who currently sits on the board of Shell Oil, said that her candidate is not completely against supporting renewable energy, but that the “free market” should really be the entity to make those decisions, not the government. Stuntz did tell us that Romney planned to end a production tax credit for wind energy that has helped keep that industry growing for more than 20 years.

Before getting into the other arguments discussed in the debate, it is important to let that previous paragraph sink in. Romney’s energy and environmental surrogate, a member of his campaign giving him advice on energy issues and acting as his spokesperson in that arena, is a board member of one of the largest oil companies in the world. This fact can't be ignored, and it indicates where Romney’s allegiance will lie when it comes to energy issues. Stuntz also served as a deputy energy secretary under President George H.W. Bush, and we know well how that administration buddied up to Big Oil.

One of the big issues, and a major talking point for industry-friendly politicians and lobbyists, was the Keystone XL Pipeline. From the Houston Chronicle:

Romney has pledged that if elected, he would approve the Keystone XL pipeline that would send oil sands crude from Canada to Gulf Coast refineries - a commitment Stuntz reiterated Wednesday.

Reicher said the Obama administration was moving toward making a decision on the proposed pipeline in the first quarter of 2013.

Both campaign representatives touted the potential for oil exploration in the Arctic Ocean, as Shell moves closer to launching exploratory drilling in the region once ice clears this summer.

Look, this is an industry that can't operate anywhere near safely in my home waters in the Gulf of Mexico. The fact that both presidential campaigns currently support the fool's errand of drilling in treacherous Arctic waters for extreme energy is a sign of how far oil money penetrates our political system.

On the major issue of climate change, both spokespeople told us that their candidate believes in climate change, and that they both agree that global initiatives are needed to mitigate its effects. But that's simply lip service until proven otherwise.

From about June 2011 to May 2012, the issue of rising gas prices was a major talking point for the Republican Party. Now, the extreme weather events happening all over are a lightning rod for the Democratic Party to bring attention to the reality of climate change and the impacts to our economy, national security and health.

At the very least, we can expect climate and energy topics to be a significant issue in this year’s presidential campaigns, and that provides at least a chance for science to overcome oil money.

If you want to find out more about the candidates’ positions on environment and energy, check out our “What To Expect When You’re Electing” series on both ROMNEY and OBAMA.