Presidential Campaign Surrogates Clash Over Approaches to Energy, Environment

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By Dean Scott  

Surrogates for President Obama and presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney July 11 clashed over climate change and energy policies, including the wind energy tax credit, which Romney’s representative said may have “outlived its usefulness.”

Linda Gillespie Stuntz, representing Romney, said the former Massachusetts governor would scrap the wind tax credit consistent with his opposition to federal policies that favor some energy sources over others. Romney “thinks that this is an illustration of one that has probably outlived its usefulness,” she said, but cautioned he has not determined whether to eliminate it immediately or phase it out over time.

Regarding climate change, Stuntz said Romney is “certainly not a denier” and believes “there is a role” for the federal government in funding more cutting-edge alternative energy research. But Romney adamantly opposes the United States taking “unilateral” action to cut its greenhouse gas emissions because it would only “further disadvantage” the U.S. economy, according to Stuntz, a former Energy Department deputy secretary for President George H.W. Bush.

Stuntz squared off with Dan Reicher, who represented the Obama campaign, at an informal debate on energy and environmental policy hosted by the Business Roundtable.

Reicher, a member of the Obama transition team who also led Google’s climate and energy initiatives, defended the administration’s regulation of power plant and other greenhouse gas emissions; its use of loan guarantees and other federal funding to boost commercialization of U.S. renewable energy technologies; and its efforts to raise the fleet-wide average fuel economy of U.S. cars to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.

Stuntz countered that states would enjoy more “deference” under a Romney administration in regulating environmental challenges, such as the increasing use of hydraulic fracturing to recover natural gas. She also said if Romney wins the presidency, he would greenlight the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline on “day one.”

Differences Over Loan Guarantees.

The financial collapse of several renewable energy projects awarded federal funds during the Obama administration, including Solyndra LLC, are proof that “government is bad at picking technology winners and losers,” according to Stuntz, currently an attorney with the Stuntz, Davis & Staffier law firm.

The photovoltaic panel manufacturer received $535 million in loan guarantees only to go bankrupt in 2011.

Reicher said Romney’s calls for ending federal support of renewable energy would halt U.S. progress in reducing its dependence on foreign oil. Romney would try to “drill our way“ to energy independence by favoring only fossil fuels at the expense of a diversified energy portfolio, Reicher said.

The Obama campaign representative said the president has implemented a balanced energy approach that has increased production of domestic oil and natural gas and reduced reliance on imported oil. By contrast, Reicher said, Romney would abandon renewable energy, emphasize only oil and gas drilling, and “just see where we end up.”

According to a July 10 Energy Information Administration report, total U.S. crude oil production is projected to average 6.3 million barrels per day in 2012, an increase of about 600,000 barrels over 2011, and production is expected to hit 6.7 million barrels a day in 2013.

U.S. inventories of natural gas were at an estimated 3.1 trillion cubic feet at the end of June, up 23 percent from June 2011, EIA said.

By Dean Scott  

The Energy Information Administration's Short-Term Energy Outlook, issued July 10, is available at