According to his own standards on the campaign trail today, Mitt Romney was once a “radical” on energy issues.
In 2003, as governor of Massachusetts, he supported “investing in cleaning technologies” for an old coal plant in the commonwealth responsible for dozens of deaths, saying “I will not create jobs … that kill people.”
Also that year, Romney set up a $15 million green energy trust fund for renewable energy in order to create a “major economic springboard for the commonwealth.”
And in 2005, before deciding to pull out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, Romney called cap and trade “good business.” That was back when the Economist magazine named him a “climate friendly” Republican.
Today, Romney says “we don’t know what’s causing climate change on this planet,” explaining that his new energy policy is to “aggressively develop our oil, our gas, our coal.”
Romney’s changing positions on a broad range of issues have left supporters wondering where he’ll actually land on the issues if he becomes president. As Politico reported yesterday, some donors in the environmental community are putting their bets on another flip flop on climate and energy issues:
Julian Robertson, founder of the Tiger Management hedge fund, helped put cap-and-trade legislation on the map with $60 million in contributions over the past decade to the Environmental Defense Fund.
Now, Robertson has given $1.25 million to Romney’s Restore our Future super PAC, plus the maximum $2,500 to the Romney campaign.
Other green-minded financial backers may not be giving as much as Robertson, but they still share the view that climate-change science and a solid environmental agenda wouldn’t be a lost cause if Romney won the White House.
“My feeling is that on these issues that people learn,” said former Gov. Thomas Kean (R-N.J.), who maxed out last fall to Romney with a $2,500 check. “And my hope is, as time goes on, he will understand that not everybody agrees on how you deal with these issues, but I hope he will agree with 99 percent of the scientists who believe this is an issue that we have to deal with.”
This sentiment echoes what other observers have predicted. For example, Andrew Light, an international climate expert with the Center for American Progress, said he doesn’t think a Republican president would put an end to American involvement in climate negotiations. Because they are now a “central driver of broader foreign policy,” it would be tough for a candidate like Romney to pull out.
“I am certain that there would be members of the administration who are not isolationists on foreign policy,” said Light.
Although some experts believe Romney’s climate stance on the campaign trail might differ from his actual policies, signs don’t point to dramatic change. Last week, Romney chose oil billionaire Harold Hamm to chair his energy advisory panel — joining a group of lobbyists who have worked for the coal and tar sands industries.