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Decision 2012: Where Has the Environment Gone?

Posted: November 5th, 2012

Author: All4 Staff 

Strikingly absent from either candidate’s discourse in the past months, the environment has seemingly taken a back seat to the economy in this election.  Indeed, environmental issues have been outright avoided by both President Obama and Governor Romney except when related to green jobs and energy.  In fact, the candidates seem incapable of discussing environmental topics without relating it back to the economy; a fact which is made blatantly obvious by the lack of a true environmental section on either candidate’s election websites.  More than a little bit perplexed by these omissions, we here at ALL4 have taken it upon ourselves to summarize what the candidates have brought to the table.

President Barack Obama

While more in depth than Governor Romney’s, President Barack Obama’s environmental policy plans are absent from his official campaign website, www.barackobama.com.  Instead, policy topics outlined by his administration may be found on the White House’s website at https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/issues.  The administration’s policy issues are divided into three broad topic areas: Securing American Energy; Climate Change; and Our Environment.  The remainder of this section will synthesize the basis of each of these sections as they appear on the White House’s website.

Securing American Energy

A central theme to both candidates’ platforms, methods for securing American energy are discussed in depth.  A multi-step process, the Obama administration’s energy policy consists of three main tenants: domestic oil and gas production, energy efficient consumer goods, and clean energy innovation.  In regards to domestic oil and gas production, Obama stands for decreasing net imports through increasing production in the United States.  The White House’s website reports that “[i]n 2010, the United States imported less than half of all oil consumed – a first in 13 years.”  In regards to consumer choice, President Obama supports the development of energy efficient goods.  To do so, the administration believes that investments in advanced vehicle fuel technologies, public transit, and high speed rail must be made.  In regards to clean energy innovations, the administration identifies government funded organizations and projects, such as the Advanced Research Project Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) and innovation hubs, that it believes must be provided further government support.

Climate Change

The President’s plan to tackle climate change is divided into four topic areas: reducing emissions through clean energy investments and standards, monitoring emissions, climate change adaptation, and climate change science and education.  Repeating some of the ideas from the previous section on securing American energy, the administration identifies the comprehensive cataloguing of greenhouse gas emissions as an important initial step toward “measurable and transparent reductions in carbon emissions.”   In the past years, President Obama backed the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from Federal Government sources, such as building energy use and fuel consumption, by 28 percent by 2020.  Likewise, he also backed the reduction of Federal Agencies’ greenhouse gas emissions from indirect sources, such as those from employee commuting, by 13 percent by 2020.

Our Environment

The Obama administration identifies the protection of our oceans, conservation of lands, prioritization of clean water, reduction of mountaintop coal mining, reduction of air pollution, restoration of ecosystems, promotion of environmental justice, advancement of sustainable communities, modernization of the National Environmental Policy Act, and Reduction of global mercury emissions as priorities.  A wide and diverse array of topics, the administration sites the passing of the controversial Recovery Act in 2009 as Obama’s landmark environmental contribution.  A polarizing subject, the Recovery Act included funding for programs overseen by the U.S. EPA and the Department of Interior; approximately $11 billion in Recovery Act money have been passed along to these two organizations alone.

Governor Mitt Romney

Just as is the case for President Obama, an environmental section is missing from Governor Mitt Romney’s official campaign website, www.mittromney.com.  However, a section devoted to outlining a national energy strategy is present.  Broken down into a six strategy topics, Governor Romney’s plan is aimed at making “America an energy superpower, rapidly and responsibly” by “increasing [American] production and partnering with [its] allies Canada and Mexico to achieve energy independence…by 2020.”  The remainder of this section will summarize the basis of each of Romney’s six points as they appear on his campaign website.

Onshore State Empowerment

Governor Romney’s six point plan to gaining energy independence is started with empowering states to control onshore energy development.  Specifically, Romney plans to empower states to control all forms of energy production on all lands within their borders, excluding only those specifically designated as off-limits; federal agencies are to provide oversight and certification.

Offshore State Empowerment

Offshore areas are to be developed for energy related purposes.  Governor Romney’s website states, “Mitt will establish the most robust five-year offshore lease plan in history.”  Under such a plan, the coasts of Virginia and the Carolinas will be opened to energy exploration and development.

North American Energy Partnership

A North American energy partnership will be developed with Canada and Mexico.  Governor Romney plans to accomplish this by approving the Keystone XL pipeline, facilitating cross-border energy investment, and instituting a fast-track regulatory approval process for cross-border pipelines and infrastructure.

Energy Resource Assessment

A regimen aimed at ensuring the accurate assessment of energy resources will be instituted.  Romney’s website highlights the growing need to replace “decades-old surveys developed with decades-old technologies.”  Such a regimen will be actuated to determine the quantity and quality of America’s resource endowment.

Permitting and Regulation Reform

Governor Romney would reform all environmental laws and regulations to “strengthen environmental protection without destroying jobs or paralyzing industries.”  Aimed at streamlining reviews, processes, administrative procedures, and lawsuits, reforms will be made to “restore transparency and fairness to permitting and regulation.”

Private Sector Development

Federal research and development will be used to facilitate private-sector-led development of new energy technologies.  Key to this facilitation, the reform of “regulations and permitting processes” will be made to ensure the development of both traditional and alternative energy supplies.


So what does this all mean?  If we are to take the campaign websites to be the last word for both candidates’ environmental policies, President Obama’s strategies could be best described as systematic government regulation while Governor Romney’s strategies could be best described as market based.  However, if the not so prominent presentation, or lack thereof, of each candidate’s strategies on their respective websites is any indication, both candidates are not taking the environment as seriously as some of the other issues this election cycle.

Please remember to get out and vote!


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