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Give My Children The Lightning Again (Part 2 of 3): Mitt Romney on Energy and The Environment

When Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle coauthored the dystopic novel Lucifer’s Hammer, they focused heavily on issues of resource management. In the end of the novel, one of the protagonist characters expired uttering the following last words: “Give my children the lightning again.”

Yet the challenge of giving future Americans (like my two children) the motive power to enjoy a lifestyle comparable to my own is fraught with tradeoffs amongst varying negative externalities. An intricate balance of policy is required to both power the future and preserve our natural environment from what Garrett Hardin famously termed The Tragedy of The Commons. Thus, energy and environmental policy becomes a difficult exercise in risk management and tradeoff. In Part 1; I discussed GOP Candidate Michele Bachmann’s plans to work through this conundrum. Today’s installment will address the plans and strategies set forth by Mitt Romney.

Mitt Romney has essentially been in the “I’m running for President” Business since 2007. Over this time period, he has built up an extensive set of positions on energy and the environment. Mitt Romney’s current campaign website unfortunately doesn’t focus heavily on these issues. In his section regarding job creation, he addresses the issue of energy security. He describes a strategy of decreasing use while increasing supply in order to lower energy costs below.

We need to lower the amount of energy we use and increase the supply of domestic energy sources. Government must be a partner, not an obstacle, in this effort. As President, Mitt Romney will facilitate the exploration and development of conventional fossil fuels, remove the regulatory hurdles that prevent the construction of nuclear power plants, and address market failures that prevent the adoption of new technologies.

As Governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney engaged in limited efforts to assuage concerns over climate change caused by Anthropogenic Global Warming. Prior to the 2008 Election, an environmentalist newsletter called The Daily Green described Mitt Romney’s positions on climate policy below.

As governor, he enacted voluntary state-sponsored policies aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and opted out of a coalition of Northeast states, led by fellow Republican New York Gov. George Pataki, that agreed to set binding limits on carbon dioxide from power plants. The plan he rejected calls for a 10% reduction in emissions below 2009 levels by 2020.

The Daily Green 2008 Election

Romney also has championed several other energy initiatives that are conspicuously absent from his 2012 pitch for the GOP nomination. These include ethanol and biodiesel fuels and liquefied coal fuel similar to what was once produced via the Fischer-Tropsch Process, with an additional carbon sequestering step to prevent abnormally large CO2 releases.

Romney has also been prone to use market regulation as a tool to promote resource conservation. He mentions even an increase in CAFE Standards as a method of regulating hydrocarbon consumption. He does, however balance this pro-regulatory agenda by favoring the deregulation of oil drilling and possible federal support for the construction of new refineries.

Mitt Romney has spent his time as a Governor and as a GOP Presidential Candidate attempting to compromise between environmental concerns and the need for motive power. His current set of campaign proposals seems to suggest his concern over the high current rate of unemployment coupled with stagnant economic growth has caused him to favor energy development over environmental protection.

This suggests the Mitt Romney has a Rule Utilitarian set of positions on Energy and Environmental issues. He manages these issues to maximize the well-being of society and will tend to alter his positions dependent upon what concerns him the most as a leader. Critics of Governor Romney will immediately conjure up images of Flip, The Romney Dolphin. Supporters will credit this tendency to his intelligence and pragmatism and praise Candidate Romney for his willingness to solve problems for America without being an ideologue.

Whether this flexibility is the byproduct of vision or the result of keeping a wet finger up in the wind is seemingly in the eye of the beholder. If there is a grand strategy that will fix America’s energy problems in the future, Mitt Romney needs to spell it out and stay affixed to it.

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