At the first town hall event of his 2012 presidential campaign, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney said he envied European-style energy efficiency. After he told the audience in Manchester, NH that it was “important” to reduce global warming pollution, he said that American energy policy needs to include increased energy efficiency:
I also want to see us become more energy efficient. I’m told that we use almost twice as much energy per person as does a European, and more like three times as much as does a Japanese citizen. We could do a lot better. I’d like to see our vehicles, and our homes, and our systems of insulation and so forth become far more efficient. I believe that we have a role in trying to encourage that to happen.
Romney spoke a truth that most on the oil-funded right tries desperately to avoid.
There’s no secret why American energy consumption is so much higher than other first-world nations. The American tax system has the lowest rate of pollution taxes, less than half the rate that Europe and Japan does. American fuel economy standards lag far behind those of Europe and Japan. European energy codes for buildings and efficiency programs are far ahead of the United States.
In recent years, conservatives have demonized policies that encourage energy efficiency and even attacked the principle of energy conservation. A law passed to increase lighting efficiency is a “light bulb ban” that takes away “personal freedom.” Smart grids are part of a government plot to take over thermostats and kill old people. People who buy hybrid cars have a “superiority complex.” Higher fuel economy standards, Romney claims, are “depressing the auto industry.”
The American conservative culture of energy irresponsibility is to blame for the state of affairs Romney bemoaned Friday in New Hampshire. Because of the Republican Party’s embrace of polluter power, the United States has a political system that rewards pollution instead of work, energy waste instead of efficiency.
Earlier in the town hall, Romney accused President Barack Obama of being “awfully European” on energy policy. Romney appears to have contracted Europe envy himself.