Romney’s Energy Policy and Trans-Atlantic Cooperation
We did not hear about trans-Atlantic energy security during Romney’s trip to Europe this past week. We can only speculate that this was because it is not as important as other issues, the policy is as yet undefined, or it was discussed, but not reported. The question remains where we might be if candidate Romney should be in charge of the trans-Atlantic energy relationship.
At the moment, under the guidance of Obama’s energy team, the US is headed in a similarly ambitious way as Europe in enhancing America’s energy security. Obama’s trans-Atlantic energy policy has included close cooperation with European heads of state on promoting greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets, on development of clean energy technologies, and on sharing best practices in efficiency standards. Likewise, the private sector has been encouraged to cooperate in alternative fuels; commercial airlines flying across the Atlantic are burning biofuels in demonstrations.
At the same time, the Obama Administration has enhanced its supply of energy to Europe. As America’s oil refined products are already being shipped to Europe in increasing amounts, America’s natural gas in liquefied form is expected to one day help ease Europe’s dependence on Russia. American companies’ fracking techniques are also being introduced for indigenous shale that could also lessen European dependence on hydrocarbons.
When Mitt Romney was Governor of Massachusetts, he supported a plan that the Europeans would likely find acceptable. It included becoming more energy efficient, diversifying and increasing energy supply, fixing the inadequate energy infrastructure, and developing advanced energy technologies.
To get there, he proposed to create new electricity energy efficiency programs, increase renewable energy sources in the mix, reduce utility rates on companies that install their own clean, on-site power generation, and expand the emerging energy technology sector and energy research in the state’s research universities.
As early as a year ago, presidential candidate Romney was espousing European-style energy efficiency standards in a town hall meeting in Massachusetts.
However, today the platform sounds much more like that of the last Bush Administration. As of March, Romney was assembling a broad Energy Policy Advisory Group. Romney’s ‘pro-American Energy Agenda’, available on his campaign website, is somewhat vague and in bullet point format.
Romney wants America to be ‘energy independent’. Like Obama, Romney equates an affordable supply of energy with job creation and protecting the environment. Like Obama, he wants to drill for oil, frack for gas, and invest in nuclear power. And, like a good opposition, he wants to do it quicker and better, moving aside the regulators.
What does this mean for Europe? Romney’s energy policy appears to lack a discussion of the challenges of international energy trade and policy and their inherent relations to national security more broadly.
Romney’s plan, as near as I can tell, could take us backward to a time when the US would not cooperate in global efforts to make the reduction in GHG emissions mandatory or tractable and when our expenditures on alternative energies were insignificant. Most disturbingly, I expect, for Europe is Romney’s bullet point to amend the Clean Air Act excluding carbon dioxide from its purview.
Energy security should be the pinnacle of the trans-Atlantic relationship. We share post-industrial struggling economies, a need to grow jobs, a concern about the environment, and a goal to be less dependent on foreign oil, particularly from unfriendly nations.
We have the shared innovative spirit and private sector ability to bring new energy technologies to market. Therefore, it will be critical to understand in the coming months how Romney’s energy policy would impact on trans-Atlantic energy cooperation.
Stacy Closson is a Distinguished Professor at the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce, an ELEEP member, and a Truman Security Fellow.