Tree Hugger: the election and the environment

Abby Volkmann ‘13Environment Columnist

The United States is experiencing significant changes in its energy outlook.  Our next president will be forced to confront critical issues of climate and energy policy challenging our nation.  Below is an outline of the varying perspectives of candidates Barack Obama and Mitt Romney regarding crucial issues of environmental policy.


•Skeptical about international climate negotiations and believes binding emission reduction agreements may disadvantage the American economy.

•Strongly opposes the Obama administration’s fuel-efficiency standards.

•Favors taking away the EPA’s power to regulate carbon dioxide emissions, which was given to them as part the mandates of the Clean Air Act.  Romney told Fox News, “I think the EPA has gotten out of control for a very simple reason: It is a tool in the hands of the president to crush the private enterprise system. We need to have a federal government that sees its job as helping the private sector grow and thrive.”

•Wants to make the North American continent energy independent by the year 2020, primarily using carbon-based fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas.  As govenor, Romney criticized a coal plant in Salem, MA.  He stated, “I will not protect jobs that kill people.”

•Would open all federal lands for oil and gas drilling, including the Atlantic and Pacific coasts and the Artic National Wildlife Refuge.  He also plans to give states the power to issue permits for drilling in public lands within state borders, including national parks.

•Strongly supports the expansion of the Keystone Pipeline, which would deliver Canadian oil to United States markets.

•Supports the expansion of gas drilling with the use of hydraulic fracturing.

•Opposes the extension of the wind energy production tax credit and plans to end subsidies on renewable energy projects.

•Romney strongly criticized the Obama administration’s decisions to invest in solar and wind energy.  As governor of Massachusetts, he supported $24 million of investments to the state’s alternative energy projects.

•Would “facilitate private sector led development of new energy technologies.”  Romney advocated public-private partnerships to develop clean energy during his governorship.

•Would open all federal lands and waters for drilling, including the Pacific and Atlantic outer continental shelves and Artic National Wildlife Refuge. Also, he plans to give states the authority to allow drilling in National Park Service units and other public lands within state borders.  The Interior Department would no long have the power to lease and issue permits for drilling on federal lands and waters.

•Would relax regulations on the nuclear power industry.


•Supports international climate negotiations that form binding agreements to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

•Made huge investments in renewable energy programs as a part of the Economic Stimulus Act. The Brookings Institution estimates that green stimulus government spending was $51 billion.

•Implemented stricter fuel-efficiency standards, which require United States vehicles to average 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. Has also helped fund efficiency upgrades on more than 1 million homes and over 1000 manufacturing plants.

•Supports the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in creating harsher standards on fossil fuel-burning power plants and continue regulations setting stricter standards on carbon dioxide emissions and other toxins including mercury from power plants.

•Oil imports are the lowest they have been in 15 years.  Obama hopes to cut current oil imports in half by 2020.

•He supports offshore drilling off Virginia’s coast and supports existing drilling leases in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas in Alaska. However, Obama opposes expanded drilling in the Atlantic and Pacific Outer Continental Shelves.

•In favor of natural gas drilling using hydraulic fracturing (fracking).  He is supportive of the EPA’s power to supervise hydraulic fracturing projects and reduce the technology’s water and air pollution.

•Vowed to end the $4 billion in oil tax breaks.

•Doubled the electricity generation from renewable sources since 2008.  Almost 6 percent of the United States’ electricity is made up of non-hydropower alternative energy sources.

•In 2011 the United States was a global leader in clean energy development, investing roughly $48 billion in green energy.

•Set ambitious target for clean energy: 80 percent of electricity generated in the United States will come from renewable resources by 2035.

•Approved 17 solar energy installation projects on public lands.  Obama favors the extension of the production tax credit for wind energy.  His administration gave $535 million in federal loan guarantees to the solar panel manufacturer, Solyndra, after the company filed for bankruptcy in September of last year.

•Department of Defense vowed to incorporate biofuel elements into their fuel for ships, vehicles, and planes and also to bring renewable energy to the battlefield.