As the presidential campaign enters its home stretch and voters start making up their minds based on each candidate’s policy positions, 2012 is becoming a clear choice election on energy issues. And on energy, Americans heavily favor Barack Obama and clean energy technology.
This shift away from a fossil-fueled future is highlighted by a new USA Today/Gallup poll that finds Obama leading Mitt Romney by 13 points on energy issues. Respondents were asked which candidate they thought was better equipped to handle energy, and Obama received 53 percent of support, compared to just 40 percent for Romney.
The poll was conducted in the days immediately before Romney unveiled his plan to create American energy independence by 2020 by expanding oil drilling, approving the Keystone XL pipeline, loosening environmental regulations, and encouraging states to control energy production like fracking within their borders.
Shockingly, it was first teased at a fundraiser where Romney raised millions from oil company executives. Even more shockingly, his plan mentions climate change zero times while mentioning oil 154 times. Energy analysts have already called Romney’s plan unrealistic and his goal “almost impossible to reach.”
While Obama has encouraged the production of oil and gas resources, his overall platform couldn’t be more different. In the first four years of the Obama presidency, major investments have been made in renewable electricity, energy efficiency, electric and hybrid vehicles, and smart grid technology. These actions have doubled the amount of energy generated by renewables in the U.S. since 2008, and contributed to 3.1 million green jobs – compared to 780,000 in oil, gas, and coal.
Additionally, Obama wants to extend the federal Production Tax Credit (PTC), a 2.2 cent credit paid to wind producers for every kilowatt-hour of electricity they produce. The PTC has generated around $1 billion in annual revenue for wind farms and, if extended, is forecast to create 54,000 new green jobs. Romney has said he would let the PTC expire, a move expected to cost the economy 37,000 jobs. Uncertainty over the PTC has already led to layoffs within the industry, and considering fossil fuel subsidies are roughly ten times renewable subsidies, killing the PTC while maintaining oil tax breaks doesn’t seem to make much economic sense.
But beyond energy technology, a clear choice exists on environmental and climate change issues. A new election guide from the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions shows voters have a clear choice in 2012 – energy policy based on finite fossil fuels with no regard for climate change, or energy policy that supports renewable energy while reducing emissions.
This isn’t to say Obama’s energy and environmental record is ideal in every way – it’s not. In a perfect world, he could have pushed harder for cap-and-trade policy in 2008, clearly opposed the Keystone XL pipeline, or prevented new oil, gas, and coal leases. But a Romney administration would mean significant steps backward on climate, renewables, and clean tech.
I’m not ecstatic over Obama’s record, but with the world well past 350 ppm carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, we’re out of time to stop progress toward a clean energy future. I’m an energy and climate voter, and on these issues, he’s got my vote. From the looks of polling, it seems like he’s got a lot of other energy-issue votes too.
Silvio is Principal at Marcacci Communications, a full-service clean energy public relations company based in Washington, D.C.