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Obama and Romney on energy

Sunday, October 28, 2012 | 12:00 p.m. CDT; updated 12:12 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, October 31, 2012

This article is one of 12 that examine where President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney stand on some of the issues that are important to voters.

Energy

Barack Obama

Obama plans to invest in clean energy in America. He would end government subsidies for oil companies, reduce dependence on foreign oil and work to develop domestic production of cheaper natural gas.

“Natural gas production is the highest it's been in decades,” he said during his second debate with Romney.

Obama, after reviewing a report by the State Department, rejected Keystone XL, an extension of the Keystone pipeline proposed by a Canadian energy company in January 2012. The State Department report concluded more time was needed to review the impact on the health and safety of the people and the environment.

Obama also said during the second presidential debate that during his administration, “We're actually drilling more on public lands than in the previous administration.” Still, he proposes a “use it or lose it” program for companies that possess permits to drill on federal land but are failing to use them.

Mitt Romney:

Romney has repeatedly said he would approve the Keystone XL pipeline extension. The extension would carry oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast in America, and Romney says it would create thousands of jobs and expand domestic energy production.

Romney said he could help make North America energy independent by 2020, through cooperation between the U.S., Canada and Mexico. “I'll get America and North America energy independent,” he said during his second debate with Obama. “I'll do it by more drilling, more permits and licenses.”

Regarding federal lands, Romney said the permitting process of drilling and getting oil is extremely slow, taking 307 days on average. But states have found a way to be more efficient. He cited as an example North Dakota, where he said it takes 10 days to get a permit for a new oil well.

“I’m going to have the states take responsibility for the permitting process on federal lands,” he said.

Analysis:

John Byrne, director of the Center for Energy and Environmental Policy at the University of Delaware, said the United States cannot solve its energy problem through a supply-only approach.

“If we don’t improve the performance of our energy-using technologies, energy will be more expensive in the future,” he said.

Obama’s energy policy is more multidimensional, he added. Obama focuses more on clean energy through conservation and renewable energy, as well as on natural gas.

“We need to look at the energy problem as multidimensional. We can’t just focus on supplying more oil. Romney’s plan emphasizes the supply side because he wants to drill more, while Obama’s plan focuses on both the supply and the demand side.”

Obama’s requirement that oil companies surrender federal drilling permits if they aren’t using them is reasonable, Byrne said. Romney’s plan to have states be responsible for permits on federal land creates problems because a lot of the states don’t have the kind of expertise to address those issues.

Regarding the Keystone XL extension project, Byrne said, “the oil transported from Canada through the Keystone pipeline would be very expensive. Extracting oil from the sand tars in Canada costs more because they have to remove sand and other materials from the oil. The oil would probably not be bought by Americans; it would likely be bought in the international market by those who are willing to pay more for oil.”


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