Who’s Greener: Obama or Romney?

D.C. debate highlights just how different a Romney Administration would be on green issues.
(Photo: Getty Images)
Jul 13, 2012
writes about environment and energy for the NYT, Popular Science, OnEarth Magazine, and more.

In Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, campaign-approved representatives for Obama and Romney duked it out during an informal debate on energy and environmental policy hosted by the Business Roundtable.

In Obama's corner, Dan Reicher, a professor at Stanford Law who was formerly head of climate and energy initiatives at Google

Trading blows on Romney's behalf, Linda Stuntz, founding partner of the Washington, D.C., law firm Stuntz, Davis & Staffier and former deputy security of Energy under George H.W. Bush.

MORE: 7 Steps to a Greener Office

The debate threw into stark relief just how different the next four years could look under a Romney administration. Here is a breakdown of where the two candidates differ on some of the most pressing energy issues.

Climate Change

While Stunz asserted that Romney is "certainly not a denier" when it comes to climate change, she also made it clear that Romney opposes the EPA's effort to regulate carbon emissions under the Clean Air Act and doesn't believe the U.S. companies should have to cut emissions if China and India aren't going to do likewise.

"The notion that the U.S. can act unilaterally on carbon emissions and make a material difference in global greenhouse gases is not realistic," she said. "It will only hamstring our economy."

Reicher, on the other hand, said a binding global emissions treaty is needed and that at home Obama is moving ahead with regulation of greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants.

Renewable Energy

Stuntz made it clear that while she wasn't certain on the timing, Romney would end the production tax credit or PTC for wind energy companies, which the White House is currently urging Congress to extend permanently.

"Romney thinks these kinds of technology-specific incentives are a bad idea," she explained. "This is an illustration of one that has probably outlived its usefulness."

On the subject of other federal support of clean energy endeavors, such as the loan guarantee program that most infamously funded Solyndra, the camps also differed widely.

"Government is bad at picking technology winners and losers," said Stuntz. "The U.S. should not be playing venture capitalist with taxpayer dollars conscripted from citizens."

"I think there is a number of areas where Governor Romney's bet is on essentially being able to drill our way out of this." countered Reicher. "I don't think the resources are there overall, and I don’t think it gives us the diversity of supply we need from a security perspective."

Reicher went on to criticize Romney for effectively acquiescing to cede the green energy market to China.

Reicher also pointed out that, while the GOP continues to blast Obama over Solyndra, as governor of Massachusetts, Romney supported financially backing a solar power company which later went under. Reicher argued that overall, the federal support of clean energy companies was performing as expected, as it was known from the beginning that not every company would be a success.

Fossil Fuels

Stuntz asserted that the current oil-and-gas boom was happening "in spite of" Obama, and that Romney would vastly expand domestic oil and gas production, including opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for drilling.

While Obama has faced strong criticism for approving Shell's latest Arctic exploration ambitions, Reicher said that Obama would stand firm on keeping the refuge off limits.

"That is pretty much a line in the sand," he said.

Stunzt also reiterated Romney's commitment to approve the Keystone XL pipeline on his first day in office.

Reicher said that Obama was continuing to review the proposal and would make a decision in the first quarter of 2013.

More on the Environment:

Climate Change is Screwing Your Commute

Obama Gets Green Love

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