White House hopeful Mitt Romney was to unveil an energy plan yesterday that would empower US states to control drilling on federal lands he says could raise trillions of US dollars in government revenue.
The proposal, which repeats Romney’s call for energy independence by 2020, envisions “aggressively” opening new offshore areas for drilling, beginning with waters off the coasts of Virginia and the Carolinas, streamlining the regulatory approval process and revitalizing nuclear power.
“Romney’s path forward would establish America as an energy superpower in the 21st century,” according to the 21-page paper released late on Wednesday that cites dozens of research reports and analysis by firms including CitiBank and Raymond James.
Romney routinely accuses US President Barack Obama, his rival in the Nov. 6 election, of stifling US energy production through excessive regulation, overly burdensome environmental restrictions and limits on energy exploration, including drilling offshore and on federal lands.
Romney was set to formally unveil the plan, which includes approving the long-delayed Keystone XL pipeline to carry oil from Canada to US refineries, at a campaign stop in Hobbs, New Mexico.
The two candidates have made their respective energy cases recently as they campaigned in battleground states like Ohio, where Romney touted clean coal as an arrow in his energy quiver.
In Iowa, Obama pointed to the Midwestern state’s thousands of wind turbines as part of successful efforts to harness wind energy.
Romney has complained bitterly about what he describes as the Obama administration’s failure to keep up with technological advances in the private sector or to streamline the permitting process.
“In the midst of the energy revolution taking place on state and privately-held lands across America, oil and gas production on federal lands somehow plummeted last year,” his plan said, adding that Obama has moved to shut down oil, gas and coal production “in pursuit of his own alternative energy agenda.”
A Romney administration would seek such newer energy sources including biofuels and solar, but also turn back to hydropower, clean coal and nuclear energy.
“His approach would be to break down the barriers that stand in the way of these technologies,” Romney domestic policy director Oren Cass told reporters. “The challenge in getting there is not about the resources we have, it’s not about the technology we have; it’s about the government that we have.”
One of the new proposals would allow states to control energy development on federal lands within their borders, a move Romney says would open new areas to energy development, and speed up permit approvals for new energy projects.
The plan is certain to be controversial with environmental groups eager to preserve protected areas, and the Romney campaign did include a statement in its proposal excluding “lands specially designated off-limits.”
However, it is clear in its intent to launch an economic boon.
“The lease payments, royalties and taxes paid to the American people in return for the development of the nation’s resources can yield literally trillions of dollars in new government revenue,” the white paper said.
It cited a report by the conservative Manhattan Institute think tank that predicted an expanded hydrocarbon plan over the next two decades could generate “US$1 trillion to US$2 trillion in tax receipts to federal and local governments.”