Mitt Romney has a better way. As president, he will make every effort to safeguard the environment, but he will be mindful at every step of also protecting the jobs of American workers. This will require putting conservative principles into action: significant regulatory reform, support for increased production, and
a government that focuses on funding basic research instead of chasing fads and picking winners.
SIGNIFICANT REGULATORY REFORM
The first step will be a rational and streamlined approach to regulation, which would facilitate rapid progress in the development of our domestic reserves of oil and natural gas and allow for further investment in nuclear power. We need to establish a new regulatory framework, one that simultaneously enables industry
to extract natural resources from the earth while also protecting the earth from the risks inherent in these activities. The alternative--of sharply curtailing our domestic energy industry--is an approach that only drags down economic growth and eliminates jobs. The world needs energy, and the United States is in a position to produce it more cleanly and safely than any other nation.
Streamline and Fast-Track Permitting Processes
Toward that end, all permits and approvals for exploration and development should be issued according to fixed timelines with the availability of fast-track processes. Procedures for issuing permits should be consolidated so that businesses have a one-stop shop for approval of common activities. For instance, once a
particular drilling technique has been approved in a particular area, any company with an established safety record should be able to quickly receive a comparable permit. As president, Mitt Romney will take these steps to lift the cloud of uncertainty in which the regulatory process now enshrouds energy enterprises.
Businesses could begin to invest without fear that their initiatives will be caught up in interminable delays caused by unaccountable agencies.
Overhaul Outdated Legislation
The Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and other environmental laws need to be overhauled. Laws that require every significant scientific innovation or technological breakthrough to trigger prolonged regulatory scrutiny and years of spurious litigation are an excellent means of imposing self-inflicted wounds on our economy. As president, Mitt Romney will propose thoughtful and measured reforms of the statutory framework to preserve our environmental gains without paralyzing industry and destroying jobs. For example, rules affecting coal power plants could be streamlined to achieve the necessary environmental protection
while avoiding job-killing plant closures. As described in Romney's regulatory policy, this would mean ensuring that the cost of new regulation is always considered and establishing reasonable timelines for compliance.
Additionally, the Clean Air Act was passed to protect us against pollutants that pose dangers to human health. It was not intended to control carbon-dioxide emissions, and is poorly tailored to that purpose. The Obama administration's efforts to fit that particular square peg into the round hole of the Clean Air Act--
essentially achieving the effects of cap-and-trade without congressional approval--threaten enormous economic disruption. Romney will work to amend the Act and remove carbon dioxide from its purview.
Reform Nuclear Regulation
Particular attention should be paid to reforming the regulatory structure of the nuclear industry. The current structure is both extraordinarily cumbersome and restrictive in scope. For instance, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is equipped to review only one kind of reactor design, a limitation that dampens competition, stifles innovation, and drives up prices. Yet even review of that single design can stretch on interminably. Seventeen applications for 26 units are now pending before the NRC. It is little surprise, then, that the United States has not issued a permit to construct a single new nuclear plant for more than
three decades. Compare that to France, where fifteen plants were built during the same period, or China, which has begun construction on ten plants in the last ten years. As president, Mitt Romney will seek to streamline NRC procedures so that licensing decisions for any reactors to be built with an approved design on
or adjacent to an existing site are completed within two years. And he will expand NRC capabilities so that the agency is able to review and approve several types of certified reactor designs in a way that ensures safety and reliability.
Inventory Our Nation's Resources
The United States is blessed with a cornucopia of carbon-based energy resources. Developing them has been a pathway to prosperity for the nation in the past and offers similar promise for the future. Yet we do not even know the extent of our blessings. Surveys and inventories of resource deposits are decades
out of date--when they have even been done at all. As a result, we have only a partial picture of the opportunities available to us. A Romney administration will conduct a comprehensive survey of our untapped resources so that policymakers and developers have a full picture from which to work.
Explore and Develop Our Oil Reserves
Under the robust and efficient regulatory framework just described, a Romney administration will permit drilling wherever it can be done safely, taking into account local concerns. This includes the Gulf of Mexico, both the Atlantic and Pacific Outer Continental Shelves, Western lands, the Arctic National Wildlife
Refuge, and off the Alaska coast. And it includes not only conventional reserves, but more recently discovered shale oil deposits as well. When the drilling is done off-shore, the adjacent states should be entitled to a reasonable share of the revenue, just as they are now from on-shore production. Expanding energy production on this scale would bring lower prices, greater reliability of supply, and jobs, jobs, and jobs.
Partner with Our Neighbors
Canada and Mexico are also home to enormous oil reserves, and the United States should work in close partnership with them to develop those resources. Both countries are steadfast allies, well positioned to bring their resources to market with the same stability and reliability of domestically produced energy.
American participation in the development of our neighbors' resources also holds the promise of jobs for American workers. We are already heavily involved in Canadian production and Mexico has recently begun reaching out to foreign partners. As president, Mitt Romney will seek to promote those relationships.
In addition to ensuring rapid progress on the Keystone XL Pipeline, a Romney administration will pave the way for the construction of additional pipelines that can accommodate the expected growth in Canadian supply of oil and natural gas in the coming years.
Extract Shale Gas
Natural gas is the cleanest-burning fossil fuel. Recent discoveries suggest that the United States may have a 100-year supply beneath our land. Extracting this gas requires "fracking" (hydraulic fracturing, coupled for these purposes with horizontal drilling), and will also entail significant investments in pipelines and
associated infrastructure to distribute the greater volumes of gas. While fracking requires regulation just like any other energy-extraction practice, the EPA in a Romney administration will not pursue overly aggressive interventions designed to discourage fracking altogether. States have carefully and effectively regulated
the process for decades, and the recent industry agreement to disclose the composition of chemicals used in the fracking process is another welcome step in the right direction. Of critical importance: the environmental impact of fracking should not be considered in the abstract, but rather evaluated in comparison to the
impact of utilizing the fuels that natural gas displaces, including coal.
RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT
Government has a role to play in innovation in the energy industry. History shows that the United States has moved forward in astonishing ways thanks to national investment in basic research and advanced technology. However, we should not be in the business of steering investment toward particular politically
favored approaches. That is a recipe for both time and money wasted on projects that do not bring us dividends. The failure of windmills and solar plants to become economically viable or make a significant contribution to our energy supply is a prime example.
Focus on Basic Research
There is a place for government investment when time horizons are too long, risks too high, and rewards too uncertain to attract private capital. However, much of our existing energy R&D budget has been devoted to loan guarantees, cash grants, and tax incentives for projects that might have gone forward anyway.
As president, Mitt Romney will redirect clean energy spending towards basic research. Government funding should be focused on research and development of new energy technologies and on initial demonstration projects that establish the feasibility of discoveries. This approach offers the best opportunity to promote
innovation without distorting the market.
Design Long-Term Funding Sources Free from Politics
From the perspective of creating new jobs and strengthening our economy, the main line of policy should be directed toward technologies that will replace imported oil with domestically produced fuels or electric power. Mitt Romney believes the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) model--ensuring long-
term, non-political sources of funding for a wide variety of competing, early-stage technologies--holds the most potential for achieving significant advances in the energy sector. Investment should be channeled through programs, such as "ARPA-E," that seek to replicate DARPA's success in energy-related fields.
Energy policy is critical to our country's economic future. We have the natural resources to succeed. Even more important, we have scientific and engineering talent that is unsurpassed the world over. What we've lacked is a clear recognition that tying up our resources and shackling our enterprises is costing us dearly in
every important arena. The bad news is that self-defeating policies have left us less secure as a country and weakened our economy. The good news is: we can change.