It’s understandable, though indefensible, that Texas Governor Rick Perry’s energy plan is little more than Big Oil’s wish list. What’s much more surprising is that former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney’s energy proposal differs little from Perry’s Petroleum Pollution Plan.
Like Perry, Romney would continue our dependence on foreign oil rather than develop 21st century vehicles that use little or no petroleum, while giving big oil $4 billion annually in big tax breaks; hee would oppose regulations for mercury, smog, and cancer causing pollutants; and he would let other nations develop the clean energy technologies of the future rather than restore America’s manufacturing might.
The Romney energy plan “Believes in Big Oil” rather than believing in American ingenuity and innovation. It’s no surprise that Romney has received more big oil campaign cash than any other candidate for federal office, according to Open Secrets.
Romney claims that he believes that “government has a role to play in innovation in the energy industry.” Yet in an op-ed this Monday, Romney advocated ending a federal loan program to help companies develop and produce ultra-efficient cars, signed into law by President Bush. This program has provided $9 billion in loans to five companies, and created 42,000 jobs in nine states. CAP research identified another 13 pending loan applications for projects to build hybrid vehicles, advanced batteries, and super-efficient engines. Nine of these projects would create another 11,000 jobs. (We could not identify job figures for the other four proposals.)
One of the companies with a pending loan application –Next Autoworks – plans to build cars that go 40 miles per gallon with a modest sticker price. Its plant in Louisiana would create 1,400 jobs.
Meanwhile, Romney completely ignores efforts to make vehicles go much further on a gallon gas to reduce imports. The Obama administration, auto companies, the United Auto Workers, the state of California, and a variety of environmentalists reached a tentative agreement to require cars and light trucks to average 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. This proposal would reduce oil use by 24 billion gallons of oil by 2030. Romney seems oblivious to the implementation of these fuel economy standards signed into law by President George W. Bush.
(For more on Romney’s assault on clean energy jobs, see “Romney Attacks ‘Environmentally Friendly’ Jobs, Ignoring the 64,000 Green Jobs Created in His State”)
While Romney opposes investments in new technologies that reduce oil use, he supports keeping huge tax breaks for big oil companies. The Big Five oil companies – BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, and Shell – made $60 billion in profits in the first half of 2011 alone, after making nearly $1 trillion from 2001-2010. Yet Romney would maintain tax breaks that provide them with $20 billion over the coming decade. And he keeps these breaks even though a recent analysis by Democrats on the House Natural Resources Committee found that they slashed American jobs over the past five years.
Despite generating $546 billion in profits between 2005 and 2010, ExxonMobil, Chevron, Shell, and BP combined to reduce their U.S. workforce by 11,200 employees over that time.
Just in 2010 alone, the Big Five oil companies reduced their global workforce by a combined 4,400 employees, while making a combined $73 billion in profits.
Instead of creating American jobs, these huge oil companies have spent their profits buying back their own stock to enrich their senior executives, board members, and share-holders. In addition, they have cash reserves of $59 billion. Yet the Congressional Research Service found that the big five oil companies invested less than five percent of their profits into research and development of advanced fuels. In other words, Romney opposes helping companies develop new technologies that reduce foreign oil use and create jobs, while supporting billions of dollars in tax handouts to big, hugely profitable oil companies that are shedding jobs while doing nothing to invest in future clean energy technologies.
As with Perry, Romney supports “drill, baby, drill” to produce more oil by echoing big oils claim that this would create many jobs. Both men rely on oil industry claims that the Washington Post found unsupported by facts:
But many economists say that API has exaggerated the number of jobs linked to the oil and gas industry by including direct and indirect jobs (such as steel suppliers), and a seldom-used category known as “induced” jobs that API says covers everything from valets to day-care providers, from librarians to rocket scientists.
Moreover, the single biggest category of people working directly for the petroleum industry is cashiers at gasoline stations and stations with convenience stores — 533,830 of them, according to the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. Yet hardly any of those cashiers pump gas, check engines or inflate tires; mostly they ring up sales of snacks, not gasoline. According to the Labor Department, their median hourly wage is a meager $8.68.
According to the BLS, the number of people in the United States drilling wells, extracting oil and gas, refining petroleum and manning gasoline stations is about 1.1 million.
Romney also promotes the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline that will stretch from Canada to Texas. The pipeline would bring carbon-intensive, environmentally disastrous tar sands oil across the country to refine and sell overseas. He repeats Big Oil’s claim that the “potential from Keystone XL pipeline construction” would create an astronomical number of jobs. A Cornell University analysis found that this isn’t so:
The project will create no more than 2,500-4,650 temporary direct construction jobs for two years, according to TransCanada’s own data supplied to the State Department.
The Perry and Romney “drill here, drill now, drill only” plans are based on a false premise – that the Obama Administration has slowed United States’ oil production. In fact, the Energy Information Administration reports that the U.S. imports less than half its oil for the first time in many years. Domestic oil production is up ten percent while imports are six percent lower since 2008. Meanwhile, domestic oil use is down two percent, with additional oil savings due to new, improved fuel efficiency standards for vehicles. Over the next decade, the growth in U.S. domestic oil production will outpace the progression in oil demand. And the American Petroleum Institute – big oil’s lobbying muscle – recently announced “that 6,379 oil wells were completed in third quarter 2011, a 16 percent increase from year-ago levels.”
Massachusetts receives significant amounts of air pollution from other states, and has numerous safeguards that require pollution reductions by its power plants and other industrial sources. Yet Romney joins with big oil and dirty coal to oppose the Environmental Protection Agency’s plans to reduce mercury, arsenic, lead, and smog pollution from power plants, cement manufacturers, and large industrial boilers. His proposal would lead to 68,000 deaths every year. He falsely calls these rules job killers, when they are actually life savers.
Governor’s Perry and Romney have already thrown their elbows at each other during Republican presidential candidate debates. But their energy plans are so similar that they are interchangeable. Although he says that “government bureaucrats are bad at picking winners,” Romney and his energy plans do just that. The winners are big oil and dirty coal companies, while the losers are Americans who want to breathe clean air and have jobs building the clean energy technologies of the future.
— Daniel J. Weiss is a senior fellow and director of Climate Strategy at the Center for American Progress