Thursday, August 23, 2012

Romney Pushes Bigger Role for States in Oil Drilling - Wall Street Journal

HOBBS, N.M.â€"Mitt Romney hammered home the benefits of broader state control of oil exploration, debuting his fleshed-out energy plan while on the stump Thursday.

The presumptive Republican presidential nominee's appearance in New Mexico Thursday came a day after his campaign unveiled a plan to give states broad authority to approve energy exploration on federal lands within their borders. The campaign said the plan could lead North America to energy independence by 2020.

"This is not some pie-in-the-sky kind of thing," Mr. Romney said. "This is a real, achievable objective."

He used a bar chart to show the various oil sources that could help boost production across the U.S., Mexico and Canada. Among the major contributors: offshore drilling, natural gas and biofuels.

"The net of all this, as you can see, is by 2020 we're able to produce somewhere between 23 to 28 million barrels per day of oil, and we won't need to buy any oil from the Middle East or Venezuela or anywhere else where we don't want to," said Mr. Romney, pointing to his chart.

Key to Mr. Romney's energy agenda is a plan to allow states to write regulations and safety procedures for exploration on federal land within their bordersâ€"a move designed to speed up oil and gas drilling.

"On federal lands, the permitting process to actually drill and get oil or gas is extraordinarily slow," Mr. Romney said. "Now, interestingly, on state lands and private lands, state regulators have streamlined their permitting process."

He took a dig at the Obama administration, accusing it of using burdensome regulations to discourage oil and gas production, which he said forces Americans to use renewable energy instead.

"Look, I like wind and solar like the next person," Mr Romney said, "but I don't want the law to be used to stop the production of oil and gas and coal."

The Obama campaign said the Romney plan was tilted in favor of big oil companies, some of whose executives have been large donors to the Romney campaign.

"He wants to keep giving billions of dollars in tax subsidies to the big oil and gas companies and recklessly open new areas for drilling, but turn our back on increasing energy efficiency and developing our clean, homegrown energy sources," said Lis Smith, a spokeswoman for the Obama campaign. "That's not a recipe for energy independence."

She said Mr. Romney's plan would only ensure that big oil's profits continue to increase, while the jobs created by the clean-energy sector in states like Michigan, Ohio and Iowa would go to China.

Mr. Romney said his plan would bring more jobs with good wages and improve the nation's security. The plan will "assure that we have all of the energy we need to keep America powered and to make sure that our military never has to borrow from someone across the ocean that might not be our best friend," he said.

â€"Ryan Tracy contributed to this article.

Write to Sara Murray at sara.murray@wsj.com

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