As an intern at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, I was delegated to research Romney’s stance on science.
Though “science” is a very broad term, Romney has said relatively little on the topic. On the campaign trail he has flip flopped his position on stem cells, laughed at Gingrich’s space plan, and failed to supply a clear “mission” for NASA.
The one area Romney has been vocal is alternative energy. Though both he and Obama agree that the U.S. should invest in basic research through programs such as the Advanced Research Program Agency – Energy, they disagree on how advances made in laboratories should reach the market. Romney’s endorsement of the Ryan budget and selection of Paul Ryan as his running mate clarifies that he believes funding for commercialization funding for solar, wind, and biofuels should cease.
Romney believes that the government should not subsidize alternative energy. Instead, he endorses building the Keystone Pipeline and further tapping natural gas resources. Romney argues that this will secure energy independence for the United States and guarantee the lowest price for the consumer, meaning Americans will have more resources to put back into the economy. Furthermore, he finds that alternative energy sources are important for security reasons, but disagrees that the government should invest in commercialization through artificially inflated credit ratings for green companies in addition to investing in basic research.
Using the Ryan Budget as a vehicle to enact this vision, Romney would cut the Department of Energy’s R&D budget by at least 48 percent from FY 2012 levels, a study by the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences estimates. The cuts, including sequestration, would differ from the President’s plans by up to 61 percent.
There are three major problems with the premises behind Romney’s plan.
First, Romney is acting without regard for climate change, even as increased temperatures, drought, melting icebergs, and wildfires have marked this summer and numerous studies have confirmed rising world temperatures. Even fossil fuels cost less at the pump, they are already having collateral costs that will dwarf their convenience.
Second, Romney is ignoring the fact that the federal government has long granted oil companies tax breaks. The federal government subsidizes oil companies between $10 and $52 billion per year, despite the fact that ExxonMobil, Chevron, and ConocoPhilips are one, three, and four in Fortune 500 companies.
And third, Romney has unfairly portrayed Obama’s energy policy as ineffective. A Bloomberg Government report noted that 87 percent of the loans under the Department of Energy’s loan guarantee program are actually low-risk because they “required buyers for their power output.” Additionally, an independent Wall Street analyst, Hebert Allison, published a report that the credit subsidy cost is lower than the re-estimate made by the Department of Energy. Even more, emerging products supported by these loans—such as more durable batteries—are showing promise as new energy technologies.
Climate change is causing countries around the world to bring alternative energies to market. My experience researching science policy this summer has reminded me of the economic and environmental impetuses for fostering this market—particularly at home.
The US needs a president who will assure we don’t import future electric cars from Finland.