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Obama Vs. Romney On Energy Policy

Shreya Dave

On September 5th,  representatives from the Obama and Romney campaigns took the stand at MIT to debate energy and climate policy. 
Joe Aldy, Assistant Professor of Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School and former Special Assistant to the President (Obama) for Energy and the Environment spoke for the Democrats about an all-of the above policy that embraces domestic production of resources, investment in clean energy, and a focus not only on “green” jobs but also on energy jobs in general.  Oren Cass, Domestic Policy Director for Governor Romney’s campaign, noted energy as being crucial for economic development strengthening the middle class by way of developing domestic resources and investing in research.  The debate can be viewed here (http://www.eenews.net/tv/2012/10/8), but below is a quick recap of some salient issues.    

Investment: While the Obama campaign cites the important of public private partnerships to invest, create incentives, commercialize energy technology with unique models such as ARPA-E, the Romney campaign firmly champions private sector innovation, claiming that technology that is cost effective will make it to market without subsidies.  The Obama administration supports investment in various stages of technology development while the Romney campaign believes in drawing the line at research and “not playing venture capitalists.”  
Natural Gas:  Both campaigns support the exploration and production of domestic natural gas resources and the consideration of developing export markets, though both recognize the benefits of keeping the price of natural gas low in the United States.  In an effort to disagree, the two argued whether the Obama administration has stifled domestic production with its permitting review or whether market forces are the reason for idle federal lands.  

Drilling in Alaska: The Romney campaign firmly supports drilling in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge in order to keep flow in the Alaskan pipeline, maintain oil prices, and reduce our dependency on the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.  The Obama campaign notes the value of the natural environment, the production that is already occurring off the coast of Alaska and the fact that drilling in one region of the United States will not have a lasting effect on the global price for oil.  
Fuel Efficiency:  While both sides agree that energy efficiency is, in principle, a good thing, the two disagree as to how it should be achieved and enforced.  The Obama administration recently released a fuel economy standard that aims to double the fuel efficiency of vehicles by 2025, which the Romney campaign plans to repeal if elected.  Governor Romney believes that if fuel efficient vehicles are indeed cost effective, they will arrive on their own, while President Obama believes in creating incentives for innovation.  

Climate Change:  Finally, the debate became a little heated as the words “climate change” entered the conversation. Both parties recognize that climate change is a global problem and include technology inquiry as a combative measure, but address the United States’ role in different ways.  The Romney campaign argues that US action is not going to make a significant dent in global emissions so additional strain on the economy and the possibility of driving industry to other countries is not worth the risk.  The Obama administration, meanwhile, recognizes climate change as a serious challenge that should be addressed with regulation around greenhouse gas emissions and clean energy production.  While Governor Romney “debates the extent and nature of the threat” of climate change, President Obama calls for bipartisanship on a clean energy standard or cap and trade bill, blaming the Republicans for blocking his previous proposals.  In a discussion about air quality regulation and political maneuvers, the debate wrapped up with some pointed closing arguments for each representative’s candidate.  

Interested in this stuff?  Check out more at http://sciencewonks.com/author/sdave/

(Shreya Dave is a Ph.D student in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at MIT. )

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