Could Romney's energy independence plan work?

August 23, 2012 4:47:14 PM PDT
On Thursday, we were introduced to an ambitious energy plan from Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. He says he can get the U.S. on track to energy independence in just eight years.

And Romney's proposal could mean big things for Houston when it comes to oil and gas. But there are questions if the plan can work.

Romney has long touted what he calls a five-point plan to get America back on track. Point one is about energy, and on Thursday, on the stump in New Mexico, he elaborated on how that plan can move us away from a dependence on oil from the Middle East and Venezuela.

Romney says he can do it.

"It is achievable. This is not some pie in the sky kind of thing," he said.

Romney says the plan that he outlined Thursday will make North America energy independent by 2020. He says we're already two-thirds of the way there. His policy includes the use of solar and wind technologies, calls for more fracking and offshore drilling, for a better energy relationship with Mexico and streamlining the permitting process for drilling on federal land.

"I'm going to have the states take responsibility for the permitting process on federal lands," Romney said.

But is Romney's plan realistic? Can we really expect North America to be energy independent in just eight short years?

"It actually is possible that by 2020 we could achieve this North American energy independence," said James Coan, a research associate and industry analyst at Rice University's Baker Institute Energy Forum.

Coan says Romney has a lot of good ideas, he's looking on at the supply side and his plan does nothing to reduce demand, which is different from the current administration.

"It's possible that Obama would actually get us closer to North American energy independence than Romney's plan. Because Romney does not focus at all on demand," Coan said.

Another hitch is that offshore development takes a long time. Eight years is not long enough but Romney's attention to energy is further evidence that it ranks up there with the economy as a push-button issue this election year.

Romney also believes that allowing expanded drilling in the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge would help offset the need for foreign oil. He says it's an important component of his plan.

But it's a been a decades-old debate between the energy industry and environmentalists that hasn't seen much in the way of agreement on how to expand that exploration.

Another part of Romney's energy plan is approving the Keystone XL Pipeline. Plans for the pipeline are on hold as the Obama administration investigates the possible environmental effects of the proposal.

While lawmakers hash it out, a northeast Texas judge has ruled the developer, Transcanada, can use eminent domain to condemn part of a family farm in Lemar County for the pipeline. The landowner argued it violated her property rights, and says she will fight the ruling.

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