Energy Makes the Second Debate

To our surprise at Resourceful Earth, energy issues played a significant role, as you can see from this transcript. Overall, it seemed that President Obama and Governor Romney agreed more than they disagreed, the “all of the above” strategy. They at least pretended to on stage. And much to the dismay of environmentalists, both candidates were practically fighting over how dedicated they have been to fossil fuels, demonstrating the strong support these fuels continue to have in the minds of numerous voters.

It’s hard to pick a spot to quote from, so I’d suggest reading the energy portion of the transcript if you’re interested, but I’ll pull out a few pieces below:

[Obama] So what I’ve tried to do is be consistent. With respect to something like coal, we made the largest investment in clean coal technology to make sure that even as we’re producing more coal, we’re producing it cleaner and smarter. Same thing with oil; same thing with natural gas.

And the proof is our oil imports are down to the lowest levels in 20 years, oil production is up, natural gas production is up, and most importantly, we’re also starting to build cars that are more efficient.

And that’s creating jobs. That means those cars can be exported, because that’s the demand around the world. And it also means that it’ll save money in your pocketbook. That’s the strategy you need, an all-of-the-above strategy, and that’s what we’re going to do in the next four years.

[Romney] Well, let’s look at the president’s policies, all right, as opposed to the rhetoric, because we’ve had four years of policies being played out. And the president’s right in terms of the additional oil production, but none of it came on federal land. As a matter of fact, oil production is down 14 percent this year on federal land, and gas production is down 9 percent. Why? Because the president cut in half the number of licenses and permits for drilling on federal lands and in federal waters. So where’d the increase come from? Well, a lot of it came from the Bakken Range in North Dakota. What was his participation there? The administration brought a criminal action against the people drilling up there for oil, this massive new resource we have. And what was the cost? Twenty or 25 birds were killed, and they brought out a migratory bird act to go after them on a criminal basis. Look, I want to make sure we use our oil, our coal, our gas, our nuclear, our renewables. I believe very much in our renewable capabilities — ethanol, wind, solar will be an important part of our energy mix. But what we don’t need is to have the president keeping us from taking advantage of oil, coal and gas. This has not been Mr. Oil or Mr. Gas or Mr. Coal. Talk to the people that are working in those industries. I was in coal country. People grabbed my arms and say, please, save my job. The head of the EPA said, you can’t build a coal plant. You’ll virtually — it’s virtually impossible, given our regulations.

Again, the transcript is here. Romney dinged Obama on the Keystone Pipeline. There was a longer conversation about whether or not production of energy is up on federal lands, and some complicated bickering over permitting and leasing. ABC News attempts a fact check here, saying that Romney overreached in his statement that Obama cut leasing in “half” while noting that leasing was down something like 40%.

As we have discussed before, this is a complicated topic because at times drilling can take a while to get online and some current results might have been the result of policies under George W. Bush, as well as being highly dependent on the price of a barrel of oil. It is worth noting that permitting took a huge plunge after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Some will consider this appropriate, and others might not (for example, the likelihood of a future oil spill isn’t highly contingent upon when the last oil spill was). For further reading, consult the Institute for Energy Research.

One area where I think Romney hit a bit of a snag regarding energy was his attempt to criticize Obama for having gasoline at $1.80 per gallon when he took office, and it rising to its current price of ~$3.80/gallon  now. Obama effectively countered this by pointing out that the economy was in a free-fall when he took office, and gas prices were low because of this (it was previously very expensive in 2008, around $4.00/gallon, before the recession hit). Obama then followed up with an (inaccurate and misleading, in my opinion) accusation that Romney’s policies would throw us back into a recession where gasoline would be very cheap again, which nonetheless was a hit with the audience:

[Obama] Well, think about what the governor — think about what the governor just said. He said when I took office, the price of gasoline was 1.80 (dollars), 1.86 (dollars). Why is that? Because the economy was on the verge of collapse; because we were about to go through the worst recession since the Great Depression as a consequence of some of the same policies that Governor Romney is now promoting. So it’s conceivable that Governor Romney could bring down gas prices, because with his policies we might be back in that same mess. (Audience murmurs.)

What I want to do is to create an economy that is strong and at the same time produce energy. And with respect to this pipeline that Governor Romney keeps on talking about, we’ve — we’ve built enough pipeline to wrap around the entire Earth once. So I’m all for pipelines; I’m all for oil production.

Outside of oil, it is clear that the Obama Administration has been much less friendly to fossil fuels than a Romney Administration would be. This is a general divide between Republicans and Democrats, and Administration’s tend to be staffed by people who share their ideological convictions, creating the difference. As we recall, the Obama EPA has been incredibly harsh on coal, and not exactly a friend to the oil and natural gas industry. And Democrats have been more inclined to provide financial support to renewable energy than Republicans.



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