The 2012 Presidential Election is tomorrow, and critical decisions regarding how the United States should tackle climate change and energy security will need to be made in the near future. Therefore, it is of great importance that Americans elect a leader capable of addressing these issues. After three years of President Obama in the Oval Office, Americans have seen the current administration’s environmental policy agenda enacted. But in order to cast an informed ballot in the November election, the American electorate – especially independent and undecided voters – needs to know how presidential hopeful Mitt Romney plans to meet the challenges of a changing environment. Spoiler alert: Romney’s approach to the environment is unsustainable at its core and contrasts greatly with President Obama’s.

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Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney puts forth not an environmental plan (the environment is not one of the issue areas listed on his official website), but an energy plan that hinges on three policy planks. First, Romney wants to implement “significant regulatory reform.” This involves fast-tracking resource (i.e., coal, oil, and natural gas) development projects, ensuring that environmental laws take “cost” into consideration, eliminating the Federal Government’s authority to regulate carbon emissions under the Clean Air Act (effectively overturning the Supreme Court’s decision in Massachusetts v EPA), and streamlining the process to build new nuclear power plants. If these changes sound drastic, one need not worry. Companies would be afforded several years to continue business as usual before being required to comply with any regulatory changes made to the current scheme.

Second, as the United States has been “blessed with a cornucopia of carbon-based energy,” Romney advances a policy of “increasing production.” With the Clean Air Act no longer standing in the way of prosperity and security, under a Romney administration all avenues for energy production would be explored, including drilling for oil and shale oil in places like the Gulf of Mexico and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which are home to some of the country’s most environmentally sensitive areas. However, at no point in Romney’s Plan for Jobs and Economic Growth does he suggest that “fads” such as biofuels, solar, or wind will be part of his broader energy strategy. While President Obama responded to significant pressure from the environmental community to halt, at least until 2013, making a decision about the development of the Keystone XL pipeline (a project which climate scientist James Hansen said would mean “game over for the planet”), Romney intends to give the green light to such projects that would help to ensure America’s continued dependence on oil.

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Third, in an effort to achieve his goal of reducing the size of government and reining in excessive spending, Romney proposes merely redirecting the existing budget to focus on “research and development.” Instead of using grants, loans, and tax incentives to fund “politically favored” but ultimately not economically viable pet projects in solar power and wind technology, the GOP Presidential candidate would simply reallocate money earmarked for clean tech to go toward basic research. Since climate change is actually occurring faster than scientists had originally predicted, shifting resources completely away from direct capital investments in clean energy projects to basic research seems like just the kind of strategy that could successfully derail efforts aimed at quickly reducing America’s carbon emissions.

Finally, on the topic of climate change, Romney has grown more enlightened on the subject since his halcyon days as Governor of Massachusetts, when he supported the idea of a regional cap-and-trade system and unwittingly remarked, “…it may well be that the emission of carbon dioxide is contributing to global warming. I don’t know how much is related to CO2 emissions, how much is cyclical. But it certainly wouldn’t hurt to reduce our use of CO2, and it certainly would be great to dramatically reduce our use of oil.” Now a seasoned presidential candidate, Romney has come to a clearer understanding of what’s at stake, as evidenced by the joke (received with uproarious laughter) he made about rising sea levels at last week’s Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida, a city considered to be extremely vulnerable to changes in sea level.

No matter whether you are a registered Democrat, Independent, or Republican, or an undecided voter, if the future of the environment in the United States is one your top concerns this upcoming election, your choice for President is as clear as the air and water you want to see preserved for future generations.

+ Mitt Romney’s Plan for Jobs and Economic Growth

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