Obama, Romney make energy a centerpiece of dueling speeches in Ohio

Source: John McArdle, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, June 15, 2012

In dueling economic speeches today from different corners of the key presidential battleground of Ohio, presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney and President Obama agreed that the road back to American prosperity will be built in large part on jobs and growth in the energy industry.

But the two men laid out very different visions for harnessing that growth in the coming years.

Romney — whose Cincinnati address wrapped up just before the president’s Cleveland speech — sharply criticized the administration for energy and regulatory policies that he said are holding back traditional energy sectors that are ripe for job creation and economic growth.

“I happen to like the sources of energy that we have in abundance in this country: oil, coal and natural gas,” Romney said. “And I’m going to take advantage of those to get the energy costs low so we can have more jobs, manufacturing jobs, and bring them back to this country.”

But a week after the Energy Information Administration reported that U.S. oil production reached its highest level since 1998 in the first three months of 2012, Obama said the American oil industry is doing just fine.

“If we truly want to gain control of our energy future, we’ve got to recognize that pumping more oil isn’t enough,” he said.

Obama said the United States should be focusing its efforts on promoting “a clean energy industry that has never been more promising.”

Although it was officially billed as a campaign event, Obama appeared less inclined to engage the estimated crowd of 1,500 today in the usual campaign chants and calls and response.

Instead, the decidedly serious Obama, who appeared at Cuyahoga Community College in a full suit rather than his customary shirt sleeves, seemed intent on painting the 2012 election as a stark choice between his vision and a Republican plan that he said relies on the policies that led America into economic crisis.

“Now is not the time to go back to a greater reliance on fossil fuels from foreign countries,” Obama said. “Now is the time to invest more in the clean energy that we can make right here in America.”

Along with encouraging America’s natural gas boom, providing safe nuclear energy and researching ways to make coal burn cleaner, Obama called for the United States to be a leader in renewable energy generation from wind, solar and next-generation biofuel sources and to lead the race to create the best electric vehicles and energy-efficient buildings.

“So my plan would end the government subsidies to oil companies that have rarely been more profitable,” he said. “Let’s double down on a clean energy industry that has never been more promising.”

One way Obama wants to help that industry is by putting in place a clean energy standard that he said would create a market for innovation.

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) introduced his “Clean Energy Standard Act,” which would require utilities to generate 84 percent of electricity from low-carbon sources, including natural gas, nuclear and renewables, by 2035. But the bill has little chance in the Republican-controlled House.

In his speech at Seilkop Industries Inc., a manufacturing firm, Romney said Obama’s rhetoric when it comes to supporting America’s traditional energy sectors doesn’t match his actions.

“Talk to the people in the coal industry and ask whether his regulations have helped them mine coal. … Go talk to the people in the natural gas world and ask them what it’s like under the Obama administration,” Romney said. “They’ll tell you that the administration has tried to push itself in to regulate the production of natural gas in such a way that it’s less reliable and harder to use our gas.”

And the former Massachusetts governor was particularly critical of the Obama administration’s record on the oil industry.

“Talk to the oil people. They’ll tell you that he put a moratorium on drilling in the Gulf [of Mexico]. Can’t drill in [the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge]. Aren’t drilling in the Outer Continental Shelf off of Virginia. On all three of those resources that we have in abundance, this is a president that’s made it harder for us to create jobs there and to get low-cost energy to manufacturers like this one.”

Romney said a president truly committed to creating jobs and reviving the economy would not have impeded the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, the 1,700-mile project that would bring oil sands crude from Canada to the Gulf Coast.

“I can guarantee you, if I’m president, on day one, we’re going to get the approval from that pipeline from Canada,” Romney said. “And if I have to build it myself to get it here, I’ll get that oil into America.”