Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks at a campaign stop held at KP Kauffman Co., an oil and gas production and drilling company in Fort Lupton, Colo., Wednesday, May 9, 2012. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
As he seeks the support of undecided voters in key swing states, Mitt Romney is portraying himself as a centrist at heart—not as the “severely conservative Republican” he said he was during the hard-fought GOP primaries. This kinder, gentler Romney was very much on display in his televised debates with President Obama. But a close examination of his energy plan, released on August 23, reveals no such moderation; rather, it is a blueprint for the systematic plunder of America’s farm and wilderness areas, coupled with a neocolonial invasion of Canada and Mexico.
The true content of the Romney plan, titled “Energy Independence,” is not easily deciphered, as it is buried in lofty rhetoric about North American energy independence and the creation of millions of high-paying jobs. “I have a vision for an America that is an energy superpower, rapidly increasing our own production and partnering with our allies Canada and Mexico to achieve energy independence on this continent,” Romney declared.
Read between the lines, however, and the predatory nature of his vision becomes evident. Essentially, the plan is intended to remove most impediments to the exploitation by US energy firms of untapped oil, gas and coal fields in the United States, Canada and Mexico, regardless of the consequences for national health, safety or the environment. In particular, the plan has five key objectives: eliminating federal oversight of oil and gas drilling on federal lands; eviscerating all environmental restraints on domestic oil, gas and coal operations; eliminating curbs on drilling in waters off Florida and the east and west coasts of the United States; removing all obstacles to the importation of Canadian tar sands; and creating an energy consortium with Canada and Mexico allowing for increased US corporate involvement in—and control over—their oil and gas production.
In presenting these proposals, Romney tends to portray them as necessary reforms of current practice rather than as the radical departures they truly represent. For example, in pressing his number one objective—eliminating federal control over extracting fossil fuels on federal lands—he implies that his primary motivation is to speed up the permitting process and eliminate unnecessary paperwork. “States have crafted highly efficient and effective permitting and regulatory programs that address state-specific needs,” he declared. Under his plan, these state-level regulatory processes “will be deemed to satisfy all requirements of federal law” within the boundaries of a given state, thereby eliminating the need for federal regulatory bodies.
For those who seek to minimize the role of the federal government—or bureaucratic overkill in general—this proposal may appear attractive. What is not mentioned is that (a) state legislators are generally far more receptive to arm-twisting by the energy lobby than are members of Congress, and (b) state-level regulatory bodies are often far less equipped to monitor complex processes like hydrofracking, which can pose multiple risks to community health and safety. In Pennsylvania, for example, opponents of fracking have pointed out that the state legislature is beholden to drilling companies and that state regulatory bodies are inadequately staffed and ill-equipped to monitor the thousands of fracking operations there. When some Pennsylvania municipalities adopted zoning rules to restrict fracking within their town limits, the legislature voted to deprive lower jurisdictions of this right, handing the drillers a major victory. “We have been sold out to the gas industry, plain and simple,” declared Todd Miller, a commissioner in South Fayette Township who opposed the legislation, as reported by The New York Times. (A Pennsylvania court ruled in July that the state cannot restrict local governments from using zoning laws to ban oil and gas drilling, but Republican Governor Tom Corbett, an advocate of fracking, has appealed the decision.)