Presidential candidate Mitt Romney presented his energy plan for the nation on August 23rd to a crowd of supporters in Hobbs, New Mexico. My reading of Romney's 18-page speech and other public documents and reports raise a number of concerns about his positions on energy policy.

The overriding goal of Romney's energy plan is to initiate and press hard for policies that will enhance the power of the already powerful and too-big-to-fail oil, gas, and coal companies as the best way to achieve "energy independence.” The idea of winning independence of foreign oil is a hackneyed notion offered up by presidential candidates and incumbents every four years going back to the early 1970s. Michael Grunwald makes this point in his new book, The New New Deal:

"Ever since 1973, when Richard Nixon vowed to end oil imports by the decade's end, every president had made we-can-do-it promises about energy independence. 'I happen to believe that we can do it,' said Gerald Ford. Jimmy Carter had proclaimed this crusade 'the more equivalent of war.' Even George W. Bush had pledged 'to move beyond a petroleum-based economy" (p. 38).

Experts also tell us that the oil market is international and no one country can simply decide to leave it. We shouldn't forget either that the U.S. still imports about 45-50 percent of its oil from abroad. Reporter Brad Plumer makes this point in an article published in The Washington Post on August 28:

“Energy independence can’t protect the United States from high oil prices. The idea that North America wouldn’t need to import oil directly from Saudi Arabia or other OPEC countries is alluring. Still, as various energy experts have argued, there’s no such thing as ‘true’ oil independence. Oil is traded on the world market. If tensions in the Middle East cause prices to spike, everyone is affected, regardless of where they get their crude. The easiest way to observe this is to look at Canada. Canada is a net oil exporter, a bona fide oil-independent nation. But gasoline prices in Canada still rise and fall in accordance with world events, just as they do in the United States or Japan or Europe.”

Given the slogan of "energy independence" as a central, though misguided, goal of Romney's energy plan, Romney identifies a variety of methods for achieving it. He would shower the big fossil fuel companies with tax breaks and subsidies to develop and maximally produce oil, gas, and coal, wherever they can find recoverable fossil fuel deposits. He wants them to drill, however high the risk, in the Arctic and the northern-most oceans, in the deepest parts of the Gulf of Mexico, in the offshore areas off the Mid-Atlantic States, in Alaska, and in Africa. He wants them to refine the tar sands of Canada in be piped across the Western States to Texas refineries. He then promises the fossil fuel corporations easy access to America's national parks and forests. This is corporate welfare in spades.

Romney and Republicans additionally want to shrink the federal government's regulatory capacities in the energy sector, a position highly endorsed by and inspired by the fossil-fuel corporations. Eric Lipton and Clifford Kraus provide one example (New York Times, August 23):

“An individual close to the Romney campaign said that Mr. Romney’s staff drafted the proposal [to give individual states more control over the permitting process] in consultation with industry executives, including Harold Hamm, an Oklahoma billionaire who is the chairman of the campaign’s energy advisory committee and chief executive of Continental Resources, an oil and gas driller.” And, additionally: “Just this week, the oil and gas industry gave nearly $10 million toward the Romney election effort in two fund-raisers.”

The troubling aspects of the Romney/Republican energy plan are not limited to being on the side of the corporate energy giants, corporate welfare, deregulation, and dubious claims about energy independence. Take the example of global warming. Not a word of it in Romney's energy plan. The great majority of climate scientists are convinced that the economic activities of people, especially of the fossil fuel companies, are causing severely disruptive changes in the earth's weather. Romney's most recent contention is that changes in the earth's ecosphere and climate do not warrant the conclusion that human activities are the causes. In time, according to the logic of Romney's energy plan, the corporations will get to the issue of global warming when they decide it's economical.

The Romney formula is this: Corporate executives and large shareholders should do what they do mostly unimpeded by government, that's the way it should be, and, regardless of the well-established facts, it’s in the best interests of the society as they conceive it. This is classic “trickle down,” vulture economics and a self-serving rationale that suits the top 1 percent just fine.