Energy is the lifeblood of any economy. The United States achieved the world’s largest economy on affordable, abundant and reliable energy which fueled productivity and gains in our quality of life, and these productivity gains are major contributors to the tremendous economic advancements that have been made throughout the world.

As U.S. citizens decide their choice for President this year, government’s involvement in energy policy has reached new heights. At the same time, the entire paradigm regarding energy is shifting:  The U.S. can become the world’s largest oil producer by the end of this decade and is already the world’s largest natural gas producer.  Added to our largest-in-the-world coal supplies, increased oil and gas production means the U.S. is staging a rapid return to energy abundance, thanks to American ingenuity and technology made possible by private investment.  The only major threat to a rebirth of American economic growth fueled with affordable and reliable energy is the possibility of misplaced priorities in Washington surrounding the supply and use of energy.  Therefore, the government’s approach to energy is now, more than ever before, essential to choosing the future through our exercise of the right to vote.

As you analyze the presidential candidates’ positions on this important topic, ask yourself these two questions: which of the candidates truly understands that abundant, affordable, and reliable supplies of energy—from all sources—is essential to our quality of life, and do the positions that they espouse reflect this critical understanding?

Below is a short comparison of some of the key points within the energy and environmental plans of the two major presidential candidates—President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney. The items listed below are taken from the candidates’ official websites, news articles featuring their stated positions, and analyses of policies they have supported or implemented as public officials.

Table of Contents




  • Set a goal of North American energy independence by 2020.[1]
  • Would implement a new five-year offshore leasing plan that opens more areas for development than the existing plan for 2012-2017, starting with areas off the coast of Virginia and the Carolinas. Plan would set minimum production targets for each five-year leasing period with annual assessments to Congress.[2]
  • Would approve the Keystone XL pipeline immediately after taking office. Would institute fast-track regulatory approval processes for cross-border pipelines and other infrastructure.[3]
  • Would approve permits for seismic surveys and exploration offshore to update decades-old information. Would undertake new seismic analysis in offshore areas not included in the new lease plan, and require the sharing of onshore geological and geophysical information by private industry with the Department of the Interior.[4]
  • Would collaborate with Canada and Mexico to ensure accurate inventory of their resources and sharing of data.[5]
  • Would work with states to allow them to oversee leasing and production of energy on federal onshore lands within their borders unless specifically indicated as off-limits.


  • Issued a five-year offshore drilling plan that de facto re-imposes the executive moratorium on offshore drilling that was lifted in 2008 by keeping 85 percent of the Outer Continental Shelf off-limits to energy production.[6]
  • Proposed a budget for Fiscal Year 2013 that calls for $66 billion in new taxes on the oil and gas industry.[7] The budget would eliminate these generic business tax deductions for the oil and gas industry only, targeting one specific industry rather than all the industries that can claim them.
  • 2011 saw the highest average annual price for gasoline in U.S. history, with 2012 surpassing it.[8]
  • Imposed a blanket moratorium on offshore drilling after the Macondo blowout that resulted in over two years of decreased oil production.[9]
  • The lowest level of federal offshore oil production since 2009 (15 percent less in  2011 than in 2010) was principally due to the moratorium on offshore drilling by the Obama administration, delays in offering offshore lease sales, fewer lease sales, and more regulation.[10]
  • Imposed new fuel economy standards that will require automakers to attain a fleetwide fuel economy average of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.
  • Studied the Keystone XL pipeline for over 3 years before deciding that the pipeline was not in “the national interest,” necessitating further delays due to more studies.
  • Closed off 75 percent of Western oil shale under federal lands to development.  There is an estimated 1.4 trillion barrels of Western oil shale, almost 70 percent of which is under federal lands.[11]
  • Justified tax increases on oil, gas and coal because of alleged concerns that existing policies would lead to “overproduction” of these energy products.[12]




  • Opposes federal regulation of hydraulic fracturing, stating that, “states have carefully and effectively regulated the process for decades.”[13]


  • Proposed a rule to usurp the states’ authority to regulate hydraulic fracturing on federal lands within their borders.  The rule is estimated to cost between $1.4 and $1.6 billion each year, and is expected to impact over 5,000 wells.[14]
  • Achieved the lowest level of natural gas produced on federal lands since at least fiscal year 2003 due to difficulty and  “red tape” in getting federal leases and permits.[15]
  • Proposed a $45 million, multi-agency study on hydraulic fracturing based on the premise that federal regulation of the practice is justified, even though all energy-producing states maintain that their regulation is rigorous and responsive to the needs of the states.[16]





  • Would amend the Clean Air Act to exclude regulation of carbon dioxide, which EPA chose to regulate.[17]
  • Opposes the Obama administration’s Utility MACT (now called MATS by the Obama administration) rule.[18]
  • While speaking about the unpopular Salem, Massachusetts coal plant as governor in 2003, Romney said, “I will not create jobs or hold jobs that kill people and that plant, that plant kills people.”


  • Supported legislation to enact a national “cap-and-trade” program that would essentially tax coal-fired power plants for carbon dioxide emissions.
  • During his first campaign for the presidency, then-Senator Obama said that under his proposed cap and trade system, “electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket.”[19]
  • Said in a 2008 interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, “if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can; it’s just that it will bankrupt them because they’re going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that’s being emitted.”[20]
  • After the failure of cap and trade legislation in 2009, President Obama said “cap and trade was just one way of skinning the cat; it was not the only way,” referring to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) plans to regulate greenhouse gas emissions administratively.  EPA subsequently moved to regulate greenhouse gases from new coal-fired power plants.
  • Proposed the Utility MACT rule, which is estimated to result in the loss of 10 percent of the United States’ coal-fired electricity generation.  EPA itself estimates that reductions in mercury emissions targeted by the rule will save up to $6 million per year, while costing almost $10 billion per year. [21] According to NERA Economic Consulting, Utility MACT along with other proposed rules could cost $21 billion per year and destroy 183,000 jobs annually.[22]
  • Proposed a rule to regulate Coal Combustion Residuals, also known as coal ash, that is estimated to cost up to 316,000 jobs and $110 billion in economic activity over a 20-year period.[23]
  • The Obama administration’s EPA revoked an already-approved permit for a West Virginia coal mine, which a federal court subsequently overturned.  EPA is appealing the ruling.[24]
  • Attempted to rewrite 2008 Stream Buffer Zone rule to impose additional restrictions on surface coal mining projects.[25]
  • Proposed the Cross State Air Pollution Rule, which would target emissions mainly from coal-fired power plants.  The rule would have cost $800 million per year in addition to $1.6 billion in necessary capital investments, but was struck down by a federal court this year.[26]  The rule would have also contributed toward the loss of more than 34 Gigawatts of electrical generating capacity.[27]




  • Supports funding for basic research and development across the full spectrum of energy-related technologies, rather than subsidies for commercialized sources of energy and demonstration projects.[28]
  • Does not support extending the wind Production Tax Credit—which subsidizes  companies 2.2 cents per kwh for wind electricity over a 10 year period—after its expiration at the end of this year.


  • Proposed a Clean Energy Standard in his Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 budget that would require 80 percent of the nation’s electricity to come from low-carbon or zero-carbon sources by 2035.[29]
  • Increased solar subsidies by 534%—from $179 million in FY 2007 to $1.13 billion in FY 2010.[30]
  • Increased wind subsidies by 947%—from $476 million in FY 2007 to $4.98 billion in FY 2010.[31]
  • Established the $16 billion loan guarantee program in his stimulus plan,[32] which is riddled with solar company failures like Solyndra ($535 million and 1,100 out of work), Abound Solar ($400 million), and Beacon Power ($43 million).[33]
  • Supports extending the Production Tax Credit for wind power.




  • Would maintain the Renewable Fuel Standard biofuel mandate, which has been found to increase corn and fuel prices.[34]


  • Increased biomass and biofuel subsidies by 1731%—from $61 million to $1.1 billion.[35]
  • Would also maintain the Renewable Fuel Standard.
  • Obama administration’s EPA has refused to grant a waiver to the biofuel mandate even with corn crop shortages caused by record national drought.[36]
  • EPA also levied fines on refiners for not using cellulosic biofuel mandated under the Renewable Fuel Standard, even though the biofuel wasn’t being produced by the biofuel industry.[37]
  • Obama administration’s Department of Defense signed a contract with two biofuel companies to purchase advanced biofuel at $26 per gallon for a total of $12 million—more than five times as much as traditional jet fuel.[38]




  • Would equip the NRC (Nuclear Regulatory Commission) to approve new designs and to license approved reactor designs on approved sites within two years.[39]


  • Has continued loan guarantees for nuclear plants as long as they pass NRC rules and regulations.
  • Banned uranium mining for 20 years on over one million acres of land in Arizona.[40]
  • Terminated the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository in Nevada, which the federal government has spent $15 billion to build and is the only national repository approved under current law.  As a result, a federal court ruled that numerous nuclear plants across the country cannot be relicensed, because there is no acceptable permanent storage for the spent fuel.[41]




  • Would establish a regional agreement to facilitate cross-border energy investment, infrastructure, and sales. Proposes to promote and expand regulatory cooperation between governments to encourage energy production, including the creation of a forum for sharing best practices and technologies.[42]
  • Would allow states to establish their own processes to oversee the development and production of all forms of energy on federal lands within their borders, excluding only lands specially designated off-limits.[43]
  • Proposes policy that says state regulatory processes and permitting programs for all forms of energy development will be deemed to satisfy all requirements of federal law. Federal agencies will certify state processes as adequate, according to established criteria that are sufficiently broad. [44]
  • Proposes federal policy that will encourage the formation of a State Energy Development Council, where states can work together along with existing organizations such as the State Review of Oil and Natural Gas Environmental Regulations and the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission to share expertise and best management practices.[45]
  • Would implement reforms of environmental statutes and regulations to “strengthen environmental protection without destroying jobs, paralyzing industry, or barring the use of resources like coal.”[46]
  • Would revise the environmental review process by setting clear deadlines and statutes of limitations, requiring better coordination between federal agencies, and allowing state reviews to satisfy federal requirements.[47]
  • Would prohibit agencies from using “sue-and-settle” techniques behind closed doors to circumvent the public rulemaking process.  Would require disclosure of federal funds spent reimbursing groups for lawsuits against the government.[48]


  • Signed Executive Order 13563 to promote regulatory reform, which states, “Our regulatory system must protect public health, welfare, safety, and our environment while promoting economic growth, innovation, competitiveness, and job creation.”[49]
  • However, the total cost of regulations has increased 49% under President Obama—from $1.17 trillion to $1.75 trillion.[50]
  • The Obama administration’s Department of Energy has proposed 29 rules that are estimated to cost over $100 million—a 141% increase since President Obama took office.[51]
  • The Obama administration’s Environmental Protection Agency has proposed 28 rules that are estimated to cost over $100 million—a 40% increase since President Obama took office.[52]
  • Time needed to obtain a permit to drill from the Department of Interior now takes 307 days—a 45% increase since President Obama took office.[53]




  • Romney’s vice presidential nominee, Paul Ryan, proposed a Fiscal Year 2013 budget as Chairman of the House Budget Committee that would maintain basic energy research, while “paring back duplicative spending and non-core functions, such as applied and commercial research or development projects best left to the private sector.”[54]
  • As Governor of Massachusetts, Romney appointed Gina McCarthy—who now heads the Obama administration’s Office of Air and Radiation at the EPA—as undersecretary for policy at the state’s Executive Office for Environmental Affairs.  McCarthy also developed Massachusetts’ first “Climate Protection Plan.”[55]


  • Appointed Kenneth Salazar to be Secretary of the Interior.  As a U.S. Senator, Salazar objected to opening the then-closed Outer Continental Shelf to drilling even if gasoline reached $10 per gallon. Salazar was also quoted as saying, “We must commit ourselves to recognize some areas as ‘off limits,’ and the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve is a national symbol of that commitment.”[56]
  • Appointed Steven Chu to be Secretary of Energy, who said in 2008 that in order to get consumers to conserve more fuel and buy more fuel-efficient vehicles, “we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe.” At the time, gasoline in Europe was selling for $8-$10 per gallon.[57]
  • President Obama’s Vice President, Joe Biden, called coal more dangerous than terrorism, stating that “hundreds of thousands of people die” because of coal plants. Vice President Biden was also recorded in 2008 saying the Obama team did not support clean coal, ending with the statement “no coal plants here in America.”[58]
  • The Obama administration’s EPA appointed Al Armendariz as its administrator for Region 6, which oversees the country’s most productive oil and gas region.  Armendariz later resigned amid controversy over his remarks about “crucifying” the oil and gas industry.[59]
  • Appointed John Holdren as his chief advisor on science and technology issues.  Holdren had previously co-authored a book which said, “A massive campaign must be launched to restore a high-quality environment in North America and to de-develop the United States. . . . Resources and energy must be diverted from frivolous and wasteful uses in overdeveloped countries to filling the genuine needs of underdeveloped countries. This effort must be largely political.”[60]
  • Appointed Carol Browner as his top energy and environment advisor, who headed the EPA from 1993-2000.  Browner’s EPA was sanctioned by a federal court for unlawfully destroying records it was ordered to preserve for public access.[61]
  • Appointed John Bryson, a founder of the anti-energy group Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and chairman of a solar company that received a $1.6 billion DOE loan guarantee, to be Secretary of Commerce.[62]
  • Nominated Rebecca Wodder to be Interior Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks. Wodder’s nomination was later withdrawn after concerns arose about her record of opposition to oil and gas exploration; Wodder was quoted as stating that hydraulic fracturing creates a “toxic chemical soup that pollutes groundwater.”[63] 


[1] “Romney Plan for a Stronger Middle Class: Energy Independence,” August 23, 2012,

[2] Id.

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] Id.

[6] Institute for Energy Research, “Ken Salazar’s Offshore Charade Continues,” June 22, 2012,

[7] US Senate Committee on the Budget, “The Obama 2013 Budget: A Summary and Analysis,”

[8] U.S. Energy Information Administration, “Retail Motor Gasoline and On-Highway Diesel Fuel Prices, Selected Years, 1949-2011,”

[9] Institute for Energy Research, “US Oil Production Up, But On Whose Lands?”

[10] U.S. Energy Information Administration, “Crude Oil Production and Crude Oil Well Productivity, Selected Years, 1954-2011,”

[11] E&E News, “Obama Proposes Rollback of Shale Plans for Rocky Mountain West,”; and US Geological Survey, “In Place Oil Shale Resources Underlying Federal Lands, “”

[12] U.S. Department of the Treasury, “Statement of Alan B. Krueger Assistant Secretary for Economic Policy and Chief Economist,” September 10, 2009,

[13] “Believe in America: Mitt Romney’s Plan for Jobs and Economic Growth,”

[14] Products and Power, “BLM’s Hydraulic Fracturing Rule,”

[15] U.S. Energy Information Administration, “Sales of Fossil Fuels Produced on Federal and American Indian Lands, Fiscal Years 2003-2011,”

[16] E&E News, “Obama’s frack study to look past water,” February 14, 2012,; and Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission, “Hydraulic Fracturing,”

[17] “Believe in America: Mitt Romney’s Plan for Jobs and Economic Growth,”

[18] National Journal, “Romney Opposes EPA Mercury Rule,” June 19, 2012,

[19]  Video Excerpt of Interview with San Francisco Chronicle Editorial Board on January 17, 2008,

[20] Video Excerpt of Interview with San Francisco Chronicle Editorial Board on January 17, 2008,

[21] Environmental Protection Agency, “Regulatory Impact Analysis for the Final Mercury and Air Toxics Standards,”; and American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, “Energy Cost Impacts on American Families,”

[22] PennEnergy, New EPA regulations will cause 183,000 jobs to be lost—study, Sept. 23, 2011,

[23] Partnership for Affordable Clean Energy, “Groups to Sue EPA Over Coal Ash,”

[24] New York Times, “Agency Revokes Permit for Major Coal Mining Project,” January 13, 2011,

[25]“Federal Judge Denies Obama Administration’s Motion to Vacate the Stream Buffer Zone Rule,” September 16, 2009,

[26] Environmental Protection Agency, “Cross State Air Pollution Rule,”

[27] Institute for Energy Research, “Power Plants to be Closed as a Result of EPA’s Regulations,”

[28] “Romney Plan for a Stronger Middle Class: Energy Independence,” August 23, 2012,

[29] Budget of the United States Government, Fiscal Year 2013,

[30] American Energy Alliance, “Four Years Later: Is Energy Better Off?,”

[31] Id.

[32] The Obama administration created the Section 1705 loan guarantee program in the stimulus bill and Solyndra, Abound Solar, and Beacon Power all received a loan guarantee under this program. See

[34] “Romney Plan for a Stronger Middle Class: Energy Independence,” August 23, 2012,; and Institute for Energy Research, “Renewable Fuel Standard Driving Up Consumer Costs,”

[35] American Energy Alliance, “Four Years Later: Is Energy Better Off?,”

[36] Des Moines Register, “USDA’s Vilsack repeats his backing for ethanol,” September 11, 2012,

[37] Institute for Energy Research, “Government forces refiners to pay fine for nonexistent ethanol,” January 12, 2012,

[38] Institute for Energy Research, “Navy Buys Fuel at $15 Per Gallon: They Should Read IER’s New Report,” December 7, 2011, /’s-new-report

[39] Id.

[40] New York Times, “Ban Set on Mining Claims Adjacent to Grand Canyon,” July 20, 2009,

[41] Las Vegas Review Journal, “Ruling reopens debate on Yucca Mountain,” June 8, 2012,

[42] “Romney Plan for a Stronger Middle Class: Energy Independence,” August 23, 2012,

[43] Id.

[44] Id.



[47] Id.

[48] Id.

[49] Executive Order 13563, “Improving Regulation and Regulatory Review,” January 18, 2011,

[50] American Energy Alliance, “Four Years Later: Is Energy Better Off?,”

[51] Id.

[52] Id.

[53] Id.

[54] House of Representatives Fiscal Year 2013 Budget Resolution,

[55] National Journal, “EPA Official Was Romney’s ‘Green Quarterback,” September 22, 2012,–20110922.


[57] Institute for Energy Research, “High Gas Prices are Part of the Plan,” May 18, 2011,

[58] Heritage Foundation, “Video: Biden Claimed Coal Power Is More Dangerous Than Terrorism,”

[59] Politico, “EPA official Al Armendariz under fire for ‘crucify’ quote quits,” April 30, 2012,

[60] John Holdren, Anne Ehrlich, and Paul Ehrlich, Human Ecology: Problems and Solutions (San Francisco; W.H. Freeman and Company, 1973), p. 279.

[61] Politico, “GOP: Save Browner documents,” February 9, 2011,

[62] Institute for Energy Research, President Obama Nominates Environmental Advocate to be Next Commerce Secretary, June 2, 2011,

[63] The Hill, “Federal interference in energy development regulation a bad idea,”

 Other Sources

-President Obama taps the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, Institute for Energy Research, “New Low,”

-President Obama increase OPEC imports by 33%, IER, “Obama Policies Making US More Dependent on Persian Gulf Oil,”

-President Obama delays drilling in the Arctic, IER, Oil Exploration in the Arctic: Is the Obama Administration Really Interested?,

-President Obama closes 50% of Naval Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, CNN, “Alaskan oil and wildlife: It’s not either/or,”

-Governor Romney supports exploration in ANWR, Energy Policy White Paper,

-Governor Romney supports increased exploration/development of natural gas and natural gas vehicles, “The Romney Plan For A Stronger Middle Class: ENERGY INDEPENDENCE,”

-Coal generation under President Obama falls, IER, “Obama’s “War on Coal”; Other Countries Promote Its Use,”

-Governor Romney promotes coal as part of NA Energy Independence and praises coal for its affordability, “The Romney Plan For A Stronger Middle Class: ENERGY INDEPENDENCE,”

-President Obama spent $53.2 billion in 2009 stimulus on green energy, Heritage Foundation, “10 Ways the Obama Administration is Hurting America’s Energy Economy,”

-President Obama fast-tracks renewables, slows oil and gas permits, IER, “Obama Administration Fast Tracks Renewables, Slows Oil and Gas,”

-Governor Romney opposes Cape Wind farm, The New Standard, “Cape Cod Wind Farm Could Face Romney Veto,”

-Obama administration increase permissible share of ethanol blended with gasoline, CNSNews, “New Ethanol-Blend Fuel Approved by EPA Can Damage Car Engines, Group Warns,”

-Romney wants Nevada to decide on Yucca Mountain, Roll Call, “Mitt Romney Tries to Neutralize Yucca Mountain Issue in Quest for Nevada,”

-President Obama’s Automobile mandates, IER, “Issa Report Disturbing, But Not Surprising, “

-President Obama and the Chevy Volt, IER, “Chevy Volt: The Money Pit,”

-President Obama and 1 million electric vehicles goal, IER, “Obama’s Goal: One Million Electric Vehicles by 2015 – A Pipe Dream,”

-Governor Romney opposes Obama’s CAFE mandates, Think Progress, “Romney Opposes Fuel Efficiency Standards Actually Moving U.S. Toward Energy Independence,”

-Governor Romney opposes subsidies to failed electric car experiments, CBS, “Romney Calls Tesla Electric Vehicles a Loser,”

-Governor Romney on government ownership of auto industry, New York Times, “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt,”

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