More than any other in recent decades, the 2012 Presidential election has propelled energy issues to those among the forefront of the public debate. During his first four years in office, President Barack Obama has established significant new safeguards protecting clean air, clean water, and public health while focusing heavily on growing the American clean energy economy. Along the way, he has encountered unprecedented resistance from those who oppose these measures, including large oil, coal, and gas companies, their allies in Congress, and his Republican opponent, Mitt Romney.
In response, fossil fuel companies are investing heavily to push their policy priorities into the political narrative, including repealing these public health safeguards, maintaining special oil industry tax benefits, and increasing domestic drilling and mining on public lands. Fossil fuel special interest groups have been among the most active in taking advantage of the Supreme Court’s recent decision in the Citizens United v. FEC case that opened the floodgates to unlimited, undisclosed political spending by these corporations and other special interests. By mid-September, fossil fuel interests had spent more than $150 million on television ads promoting their agenda, attacking clean energy, and supporting Romney, outspending clean energy advocates by more than 350% according to a New York Times analysis.
Among the measures championed by Obama are historic clean air safeguards, including historic protections to limit toxic mercury pollution and dangerous climate-disrupting carbon pollution. Obama also acted to protect more than 1 million acres of land around the Grand Canyon from Uranium mining and enacted the largest investment in American clean energy jobs in history. The President also implemented landmark fuel efficiency standards that represent the most significant step ever taken by any administration to cut our national dependence on oil and slash the pollutants that cause climate disruption.
In contrast to Obama, Romney has embraced the agenda of oil, gas, and coal companies. Romney’s energy plan was admittedly crafted with the assistance of oil and gas executives, and proposes significantly weakening Clean Air and Clean Water Act protections as well as throwing open public lands to drilling and mining. The former Massachusetts Governor also has publicly mocked the steps that have been taken by Obama to mitigate climate disruption, and has publicly questioned whether the climate crisis even exists. Romney has also rejected the President’s call to extend the Wind Energy Production Tax Credit that supports more than 70,000 jobs nationwide and supports a budget plan that would extend billions in special oil industry tax breaks.
Given those sharp differences, the Presidential contest between Romney and Obama presents a clear choice between two candidates with very different visions regarding protecting public health, mitigating the climate crisis, and building a clean energy future.