The key comment was made by Shawn McCoy, a spokesman for Romney’s Iowa campaign, who, while explaining how Romney is anti-renewable energy, told The Des Moines Register that the candidate would “allow the wind credit to expire, end the stimulus boondoggles*, and create a level playing field on which all sources of energy can compete on their merits.”
I, for one, was quite surprised to hear that Mitt Romney wants to create a level playing field on which all sources of energy can compete on their merits. I was surprised because the only logical conclusion one could draw from this statement—assuming it wasn’t just an empty talking point meant for people who don’t know any better—is that Romney now supports ending fossil fuel subsidies, which cost taxpayers over $10 billion every year while padding the profits of the fossil fuel industry. After all, you can’t “create a level playing field on which all sources of energy can compete on their merits” if the government is supporting some of those sources to the tune of $10 billion a year.
I was also surprised by the Romney campaign’s statement because it also sounds like the candidate is now in favor of putting a price on carbon pollution, either in the form of a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system. It sounds like that, because you can’t “create a level playing field on which all sources of energy can compete on their merits” if some of those merits, or demerits, are hidden. One of the great merits of renewable energy is that it doesn’t pump greenhouse gases into our atmosphere that in turn worsen climate change (they also don’t spew mercury, soot and other harmful pollutants into the air).
Conversely, one of the biggest demerits of fossil fuels is that they do spew greenhouse gases and other pollutants into the atmosphere–yet this isn’t counted against these sources of energy because unlike most industries, the fossil fuel industry doesn’t have to pay any price for waste disposal (because their waste is carried off in the wind, into our atmosphere or our lungs).
So the only way to let all sources of energy “compete on their merits” is to “level the playing field” by revoking the fossil fuel industry’s Pollute for Free Card. That way, we get to see the true merits of the renewable energy, and the true costs of fossil fuels. Then you can add the other costs of fossil fuels, like the costs of oil spills on the environment, wildlife and local economies, the costs of polluted groundwater from fracking, the costs of destructive coal mining, and the formidable costs to public health.
I applaud Mitt Romney for his bold stance on ending fossil fuel subsidies and finally putting a price on carbon. After Romney’s full embrace of single-payer health care last weekend, it looks like President Obama is going to have to play catch-up or risk losing his left flank to the GOP.
* Note: I’m not sure what the Romney campaign meant by “stimulus boondoggles”, but I can only surmise that it meant “saving the economy from slipping into a depression as a result of right-wing economic and deregulatory policy that the candidate intends to continue”. As for ending the wind tax credit, Grist notes that could cost as many as 37,000 jobs. How’s that for a de-stimulus plan?