- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 13, 2006

With oil prices currently approaching $70 per barrel and natural gas prices reaching once-incomprehensible heights in December, energy policy will continue to be a major concern for America’s consumers, voters and politicians.

Massachusetts Republican Gov. Mitt Romney, who considers himself to be presidential timber, has a golden opportunity to distinguish himself as an environmentally friendly, consumer-oriented, technologically savvy problem solver. However, to hit this win-win-win trifecta, Mr. Romney will have to change his mind. That will require him to abandon his unaffordable, outdated, self-serving NIMBY instincts. Otherwise, this former venture capitalist will send the unmistakable signal that he is more beholden to his wealthy political benefactors and the past than he is to middle-class energy consumers and the future.

Unless it is defeated in Congress, a just-completed conference report on the Coast Guard re-authorization bill gives the Massachusetts governor the power to cancel the promising Cape Wind alternative-energy project, which, if allowed to go forward, would become America’s first large offshore wind farm. Shortly after announcing his candidacy for governor in 2002, Mr. Romney declared his opposition to Cape Wind, a technologically advanced wind farm of 130 turbines in Nantucket Sound that would be capable of generating 75 percent of the electricity needs of Cape Cod and the islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. The Cape Wind project would place America on the cutting edge in the renewable, alternative-energy industry, which has the potential to generate incalculable benefits throughout the world well into the future.

As it happens, the Cape Wind views of the self-styled gubernatorial technophile mirror the positions of the billionaire Egan family, which has been a principal fund-raiser for the governor. As Boston Globe columnist Joan Vennochi reported in December 2004, Jack and Michael Egan were directors of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, which spent $2.4 million opposing Cape Wind. Michael Egan and the Egan Family Trust own mansions overlooking Nantucket Sound. Arguing that his opposition stems from the wind farm’s perceived impact on tourism, Mr. Romney denies his Cape Wind position is influenced by the Egan family. Instead, his office offers the absurd comparison that he would also oppose “putting a wind farm in the middle of the Grand Canyon or at the foot of Mount Rushmore.”

This is what passes for responsible political rhetoric from a governor who said in October: “As a state, Massachusetts and its people have led the way in pursuing energy-efficient programs for our homes and businesses.” The governor got it half right. The people of Massachusetts want him to lead the way, but he seems anchored to the irresponsible NIMBY policies of the past. Indeed, a statewide survey recently conducted by the University of New Hampshire and the University of Massachusetts revealed that Massachusetts residents supported the Cape Wind project by 64 percent to 10 percent, with 26 percent undecided. Among all options, offshore wind-generated energy received the greatest amount of support among Massachusetts residents, even more than solar power. Even if Mr. Romney doesn’t get it, it is clear that the vast majority of his non-fund-raising constituents do.

In November, the man who opposes Cape Wind had the nerve to declare that “clean-energy technologies will reduce our dependence on foreign oil, air pollution and long-term energy costs.” He should have added: “Provided that those clean-energy technologies are ‘Not In My Back Yard’ or in the front yard of my fund-raisers.” In the midst of an energy crisis, this is not the way any Republican should begin a presidential campaign.

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