Earlier today, Mitt Romney unveiled his comprehensive energy plan he will pursue as president. Energy policy provides Republicans with their most potent weapon against Obama in this campaign. Nothing emblematizes Obama’s socialist, anti-prosperity style of governance more than his destructive energy policy compromised of a “none-of-the-above” approach. Well, none of the above except for green energy. To that end, Romney’s biggest ace in the hole for the rest of the campaign is to hit Obama on energy policy and show how his anti-free-market policies are depressing the economy, destroying jobs, and raising the cost of vital goods on the very people whom Obama purports to defend.
Unfortunately, the Romney plan is only a mixed bag. It fails to draw a bold enough contrast on some of the most important weaknesses of Obama’s policy. Romney rightfully identifies onerous federal impediments on domestic drilling. He proposes allowing states to oversee the drilling and exploration of oil and gas on federal lands within each state’s border. This will limit the deleterious effects of EPA regulations and help replicate the successes we’ve witnessed in North Dakota. And while he calls for increased drilling in the Outer Continental Shelf, he notably omits ANWR and some other oil reserves from his energy plan.
Unfortunately, his section on “innovation” is the biggest disaster of all.
Immediately after railing against picking winners and losers in the market on page 19, Romney calls for maintaining the “RFS.” He wisely avoided using the term “ethanol mandate,” but that is ostensibly the heart and soul of the Renewable Fuels Mandate. No other current federal policy is more of an anathema to the ideals of limited government, free markets, and economic growth than the Renewable Fuels Mandate.
It’s bad enough to tendentiously steer government subsidies to specific energy products; it’s an imprecation to our Founder’s to support mandating the use of those specific products. Where do we begin? The RFS requires that 22 billion gallons of renewables be blended into our gasoline supply by 2016 and 36 billion gallons by 2022. In addition to forcing Americans to use odious corn-based ethanol, the RFS includes a few sub-mandates, one of which requires a blend of 100 million gallons of cellulosic biofuel by 2010, rising to 250 million in 2011, 500 million in 2012, and 16 billion by 2022. Cellulosic biofuel, or algae-based fuel, is not even viable on the commercial market at this point.
There is nothing more reflective of Soviet-style central planning than requiring Americans to use a specific product, especially when it is so inimical to economic growth. Energy is the lifeline of a prosperous and free economy. To mandate the use of a product that kills jobs, drives up the cost of fuel and food, lowers gas mileage, and damages car engines – all to benefit corporate cronies in Big Ag – is the worst of the worst that has emanated from Washington in recent years. The ethanol mandate is similar to the Obamacare individual mandate in some respects, albeit one that would force Americans to use only those healthcare providers who have a proclivity for malpractice.
To support the ethanol mandate is not just bad policy; it is bad politics, and represents a lost opportunity on the part of the Romney campaign. Amidst rising fuel prices and a severe drought that is creating a scarcity of corn and other food commodities, there is no better time to hang the ethanol albatross around Obama’s neck than now. While Obama is playing class warfare and inveighing against the rich, what better way to engage in political jujitsu than by tying Obama to the special interest mandates and subsidies that benefit rich farmers while subjecting the working class to the most regressive tax of all – higher food and fuel costs. While Obama is using the drought to push for more farm subsidies, why not nail him for supporting the RFS mandate, which has created an agriculture anomaly in which 40% of all corn is burned in our car engines?
Mitt Romney has shown some moxie in taking on Medicare reform, which is undoubtedly one of the toughest conservative issues to articulate to an aging electorate. Why not also go for the low-hanging fruit and castigate the Soviet-style ethanol mandates that are detested by the entire country sans a few thousand farmers in the Midwest?
We praised Romney for opposing the wind subsidies, but the effects of mandates on the energy market are far more deleterious than the distortions engendered by subsidies. Yet Romney is refusing to bail on ethanol. Wind subsidies – bad; ethanol mandates -good? What gives?
We will continue to fight to the death to elect Mitt Romney in November. However, he should prepare for blood in the water over the ethanol mandate during his presidency. Conservatives must not allow the Obamacare of energy policy to stand.