Bad means to a good end
Romney’s energy policy flawed
Published: Monday, August 27, 2012
Updated: Monday, August 27, 2012 13:08
Last Thursday, Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney laid out his energy policy during a speech at a truck and supply center in Hobbs, New Mexico. He outlined a plan that called for a sharp increase in domestic production of gas and oil on federal lands and in waters off the U.S. coast. Romney plans to use this policy to both restart job growth in the U.S., as well as achieve energy independence by the year 2020.
While these goals are both respectable in their own right, Romney is taking the wrong approach to attaining them. His energy policy includes no recognition of the reality of climate change, and it would seem that no conservative in our country has a grasp on what the term ‘non-renewable resource’ actually means. Furthermore, the former governor has turned a blind eye to the history – and present – of oil and gas development in the United States, and what it actually means for local economies.
To know what I mean, you have only to turn to any former oil boomtown in any corner of the world, be it as far away as Venezuela or Azerbaijan, or as close to home as Texas or Pennsylvania. Non-renewable resources are just that – non-renewable; once they are gone, there is no re-creating them.
Unlike biofuels, which can be grown, or wind and solar energy, which will be around as long as the sun is, fossil fuels are available to us in limited supply. So when a boomtown hits its heyday, the sand in the hourglass is already half gone, and it will only be a matter of time before the ‘boom’ turns to ‘bust.’ In no time at all, streets that once were flowing with oil and money will be home to nothing but tumbleweeds and the sad ghosts of unfulfilled dreams.
So when Mitt Romney promises “good jobs for anyone who wants one,” I can only shake my head. Sure, increasing the rate of extraction of fossil fuels on federal lands and in coastal waters will create more jobs in the immediate future. Heck, it may even lead us to energy independence – that elusive goal of each and every president since Jimmy Carter – but how long can this pipe dream last? How long before all of the oil wells are dried up, the gas wells run dry and the top of every mountain in the Appalachians has been laid to rubble in the search for coal?
As so many boomtowns across the world show, the jobs created by the oil and gas industries are not long lasting. Unlike jobs created by factories, offices or small businesses, oil industry jobs cannot provide anyone with a permanent place of residence to settle down, raise a family, grow old and live out the American dream. The resources that sustain their livelihood will run dry far before any such dream can be realized, and they will be forced to move on.
On top of this, extracting energy at a faster pace will only bring us closer to a day without fossil fuels even sooner than we already anticipate. So, for the jobs that are already located in the oil and gas industries, the life expectancy just got shorter.
Furthermore, with the faster extraction of fossil fuels, any energy independence gained can only be short lived if no plan is in place to replace them with renewable energy sources. Sure, it will be a boon to our economy if we can cease to purchase our energy from locales outside of North America. But by doing so, we move forward the hour hand on the countdown to the death of fossil fuels, leaving even less time for the development of renewable energy technologies.
This year, a significant number of tax credits for the wind power industry are set to expire. This would mean a significant blow to the economies of such states as Iowa and Colorado, where wind energy provides tens of thousands of jobs. In a statement dripping with pure hypocrisy, Romney’s policy adviser Oren Cass stated that, “[Former] Gov. Romney is focused on actually setting the wind industry up to be a competitive, innovative industry that can succeed on its own two feet, like so many other successful and profitable industries in the country.”
The irony in that statement is at such a level that nobody outside of politics could possibly live with themselves after uttering it. Romney is phasing out wind energy subsidies in order to force the industry to “stand on its own two feet?” In order that it may be come as successful as what, the fossil fuel industries?
Mr. Romney seems to have forgotten that fossil fuel companies receive far more American tax dollars in the form of subsidies than any renewable industry. That’s correct folks; those companies – ExxonMobil, Shell, Chevron, Halliburton – that turn in millions of dollars of profit every quarter are being subsidies with millions of our tax dollars each and every year. And renewable energy? The energy industries that will certainly be providing our society with its energy needs after the fossil fuels run dry? Mr. Romney will turn them out and throw them to the dogs.
With goals as lofty as energy independence and jobs for all, shouldn’t a president’s energy policy be progressive? Shouldn’t it look to the future, and learn from the examples of the past, rather than rolling in the greedy, wasteful reek of the present?
Nathan is a senior majoring in landscape architecture. Follow him on twitter @nwstottler.