Touting Government ‘Financial Support’ In 2005, Romney Called For Using ‘A Lot Less Oil In This Country’

Mitt Romney’s reversals on almost every substantive issue have been well documented, including on climate and energy. Now we can add another example to the list.

Flush with millions of dollars in campaign cash from the fossil fuel industry, Romney has developed an energy plan devoted almost exclusively to oil, gas, and coal production. Meanwhile, he has mocked climate change in speeches and has called vehicle efficiency targets that would dramatically reduce petroleum consumption “extreme.”

But in 2005, while governor of Massachusetts, Romney’s number one energy priority was to lower oil use through efficiency, conservation, and renewable energy promotion. In a 2005 interview with Hardball’s Chris Matthews, Romney outlined his strong desire to lower oil consumption — including offering government incentives for efficiency measures:

ROMNEY: It‘s going to be a tough winter, for two reasons. One, the price of heating oil is going to be high, and number two, we are not going to have as much natural gas as we are used to, and that‘s because of what‘s happened in the Gulf. As a result, people are going to have to turn down their thermostats, we are going to have to do a lot in terms of insulation and conservation, and we‘re going to have to also have financial support from the state government and the federal government, and we‘ve just put in place a program to put in tens of millions of dollars in support for the poor, for those who are on fixed incomes and that are poor.

Ultimately, however, we have got to learn to use a lot less oil in this country, and that‘s efficiency. That‘s conservation, that‘s automobiles that use less energy.

Today, Romney has completely reversed course on this position — even while polls show that far more Americans support promoting renewable energy and efficiency instead of fossil fuels.

This dramatic change is not surprising considering the amount of money Romney has taken from the fossil fuel industry. According to a New York Times analysis, pro-fossil fuel groups have donated $13 million directly to the Romney campaign or to political action groups supporting Romney. That compares to just $78,000 for the Obama campaign.

In addition, outside interest groups have spent $153 million on campaign ads promoting oil, gas and coal while criticizing renewable energy.

And so, Romney has tailored his message accordingly, now saying that more oil production is the answer: “The best thing we can do to get the price of gas to be more moderate and not have to be dependent upon the cartel is: drill in the gulf, drill in the outer continent shelf, drill in ANWR, drill in North Dakota, South Dakota, drill in Oklahoma and Texas,” he continues repeating.

In fact, history has shown that more drilling will not necessarily lower gas prices for Americans. An Associated Press analysis of 36 years of data showed no statistical correlation between increased drilling and lower gas prices. Even today, with U.S. oil production at its highest level since 1997, gas prices continue to hover near historic highs.

According to a recent Congressional Budget Office report, the only way to protect Americans from gas price spikes is to use less oil through efficiency and conservation — exactly what Romney wanted to do before he outsourced his messaging to the fossil fuel industry.

(Hat tip to Brad Johnson for flagging).

Full transcript:

ROMNEY: It‘s going to be a tough winter, for two reasons. One, the price of heating oil is going to be high, and number two, we are not going to have as much natural gas as we are used to, and that‘s because of what‘s happened in the Gulf. As a result, people are going to have to turn down their thermostats, we are going to have to do a lot in terms of insulation and conservation, and we‘re going to have to also have financial support from the state government and the federal government, and we‘ve just put in place a program to put in tens of millions of dollars in support for the poor, for those who are on fixed incomes and that are poor.

Ultimately, however, we have got to learn to use a lot less oil in this country, and that‘s efficiency. That‘s conservation, that‘s automobiles that use less energy. I proposed a plan that says…

MATTHEWS: Have you talked to Cheney about this? You talk completely different than Vice President Cheney. Vice President Cheney talks — as an oil patch senator — or vice president, from Wyoming, he talks about, we need influence in the Middle East to protect our rights over there. You know, they said when we went in this war that we would get cheaper gas as a result of this war, cheaper gasoline and oil. But it was always about the fact — maybe not the war was definitely just for this purpose, but one of the byproducts of this war was going to be cheaper gas and oil. What happened to that promise?

ROMNEY: Well, I don‘t look at the war against terror as something about oil.

MATTHEWS: No, but a byproduct of it.

ROMNEY: Well, that hasn‘t happened yet, and we will see what happens down the road, but that‘s not how I look at it.

Fundamentally, you have got two things that are going to effect the price and supply of oil in this country. One is, of course, how much we are using.

And the other is how much we are producing. And, of course, we need to produce more oil and generate more renewable sources of energy. And we can do that through the farmland. We can do that through wind power, solar power. But we also have to use a lot less energy, a lot less oil.

ROMNEY: I‘m sure that there are benefits in having a stable Middle East with regards to the supply of oil to the entire world. But, ultimately, our ability as a nation to have a bright economic future relates to our reducing the amount of oil we have to buy from around the world as opposed to increasing it.

MATTHEWS: Do you believe we should go up in the Arctic, to the Arctic reserve land up there, and prospect for oil up there?

ROMNEY: I think we ought to have more oil. We ought to develop more sources of oil so that we can increase our supply. But the last thing I want to do is suck it all dry as quickly as we can. I want to use less of it. Let‘s have the supply to give ourselves the strategic and the market clout that we need to keep the price down.

MATTHEWS: So open up the wilderness lands up there the Arctic?

ROMNEY: Yes, but let‘s not just suck it all out. Let‘s make sure that we keep that reserve.

MATTHEWS: It won‘t last that long even if we do suck it all out. You are right.

ROMNEY: I don‘t want to use it all in one decade.

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