- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 23, 2012

Mitt Romney said Thursday he would free up states to explore for gas and oil on federal lands inside their borders as part of a broader energy push that would put North America on track to be energy-independent by 2020, the end of his hypothetical second term in office.

The presumptive Republican presidential nominee said fewer regulations and more drilling would spark an economic boom that would create 3 million new jobs, pump billions of dollars into government coffers and wean the nation off oil imports from the Middle East, Venezuela and elsewhere.

“This is not some pie-in-the-sky kind of thing,” Mr. Romney told voters in Hobbs, the heart of New Mexico’s oil and gas industry. “This is a real achievable objective.”

The speech gave Mr. Romney a chance to refocus his message after the political fallout over Rep. W. Todd Akin’s comments regarding “legitimate” rape and abortion and whether the Missouri Republican will bow to pressure from Mr. Romney, newly minted running mate Paul Ryan and other party leaders to end his bid for the U.S. Senate.

It also provided the former Massachusetts governor with the chance to put some meat on the bones of the energy goals he has floated on the campaign trail, where he also has blamed the Obama administration’s “anti-energy policies” for stifling coal production and preventing the nation from tapping into oil and gas supplies on federal lands and waters.

Asked about the Republican’s proposal at the daily White House press briefing, presidential spokesman Jay Carney came to his boss’s defense, telling reporters that since Mr. Obama took office he has presided over a doubling of wind- and solar-energy production, though both still provide a small share of the nation’s energy.

“We know that under his leadership and during his presidency, domestic production of oil and gas, natural gas, has increased, and our reliance on imports of foreign oil has decreased to its lowest level in, I think, something like 16 years,” Mr. Carney said. “The Republican approach is essentially one that is written by or dictated by Big Oil, and it focuses almost entirely on oil and fossil fuels.”

In his speech, Mr. Romney vowed to open offshore drilling in the mid-Atlantic and push to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Healso saidhe would approve the Keystone XL pipeline, and give states more of a say in the permitting process — in hopes of cutting the red tape and speeding up the amount of time it takes to get drilling permits.

“We’re going to have state regulators not just regulate oil production and gas production on state lands and private lands, but also on federal lands. And that will improve the creation of new oil wells, new gas wells, and get more production to the people that need it,” Mr. Romney said.

Democrats and environmental groups panned the Republican’s plan as a giveaway to oil companies, which, they said, receive more than $4 billion in tax breaks every year.Two years after the BP oil spill that killed 11 and spilled millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, they also suggested that there hasn’t been enough time to put the proper safeguards in place.

Mitt Romney has devised an energy insecurity plan that would make us even more dependent upon oil, coal, and gas companies while ignoring climate disruption, economic growth, and the health and well-being of the American people,” said Michael Brune, Sierra Club executive director. “Does anyone really think that the winning economy of the 21st century can be built on 19th-century fossil fuel technology?”

Republicans and the fossil-fuels industry, meanwhile, applauded the Republican’s plan.

Virginia “Gigi” Lazenby, chairwoman of the Independent Petroleum Association of America, said the Republican plan “incorporates the appropriate role of government in energy policy, which must be to promote energy development rather than stifle it by overwhelming or threatening regulations and destructive legislation.”

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