President Barack Obama shakes hands with Governor Mitt Romney. (Wanglei, Xinhua, Zuma Press/MCT)
In the closing weeks of the election campaign, energy continues as a sharp point of difference between President Obama and Governor Romney. Host Steve Curwood examines the clash over energy in the recent presidential town-hall debate.
CURWOOD: From the Jennifer and Ted Stanley Studios in Boston, this is living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood. In these closing weeks of the presidential campaign energy continues to be a flashpoint in the debates between President Barack Obama and former Governor Mitt Romney. One testy exchanged at the Hofstra University town hall debate October 16th was set off by a question on gas prices to the President.
QUESTION FROM AUDIENCE: Your energy secretary, Steven Chu, has now been on record three times stating it's not policy of his department to help lower gas prices. Do you agree with Secretary Chu that this is not the job of the Energy Department?
OBAMA: The most important thing we can do is to make sure we control our own energy. So here's what I've done since I've been president: we have increased oil production to the highest levels in 16 years. Natural gas production is the highest it's been in decades. We have seen increases in coal production and coal employment.
But what I've also said is we can't just produce traditional sources of energy; we've also got to look to the future. That's why we doubled fuel efficiency standards on cars. That means that in the middle of the next decade, any car you buy, you're going to end up going twice as far on a gallon of gas. That's why we've doubled clean energy production like wind and solar and biofuels. And all these things have contributed to us lowering our oil imports to the lowest levels in 16 years.
CURWOOD: But Governor Romney wasn’t buying the president’s pitch, and charged the Obama Administration has reduced oil and gas production on federal lands, and cut the number of drilling permits.
ROMNEY: I want to make sure we use our oil, our coal, our gas, our nuclear, our renewables. I believe very much in our renewable capabilities — ethanol, wind, solar will be an important part of our energy mix. But what we don't need is to have the president keeping us from taking advantage of oil, coal, and gas. This has not been Mr. Oil, or Mr. Gas, or Mr. Coal.
Talk to the people that are working in those industries. I was in coal country. People grabbed my arms and said, ‘Please, save my job.’ The head of the EPA said, you can't build a coal plant. You'll virtually — it's virtually impossible, given our regulations. When the president ran for office, he said, if you build a coal plant, you can go ahead, but you'll go bankrupt.
That's not the right course for America. Let's take advantage of the energy resources we have, as well as the energy sources for the future. And if we do that, if we do what I am planning on doing, which is getting us energy independent, North American energy independence within eight years you're going to see manufacturing come back; jobs because our energy is low-cost.
OBAMA: Very little of what Governor Romney just said is true. We've opened up public lands. We're actually drilling more on public lands than in the previous administration. And my — the previous president was an oilman.
And natural gas isn't just appearing magically; we're encouraging it and working with the industry. And when I hear Governor Romney say he's a big coal guy — and keep in mind when — Governor, when you were governor of Massachusetts, you stood in front of a coal plant and pointed at it and said, this plant kills, and took great pride in shutting it down. And now suddenly you're a big champion of coal.
CURWOOD: Governor Romney stuck to his guns.
ROMNEY: Production on government land of oil is down 14 percent.
OBAMA: Governor —
ROMNEY: And production of gas is down 9 percent.
OBAMA: What you're saying is just not true. It's just not true.
ROMNEY: I — it's absolutely true. Look, there's no question but that the people recognize that we have not produced more oil.
OBAMA: I'll give you your time. Go ahead.
ROMNEY: — and gas on federal lands and in federal waters. And coal — coal production is not up, coal jobs are not up. I was just at a coal facility where some 1,200 people lost their jobs. The right course for America is to have a true all-of-the-above policy. I don't think anyone really believes that you're a person who's going to be pushing for oil and gas and coal.
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