Mitt Romney, in a far-reaching pledge timed to the end of his hypothetical second term, claimed on Wednesday evening that America can be energy independent using coal and oil by 2020.
His campaign released a white paper detailing its energy plan, which accuses the White House of under-counting potential oil supplies. Romney would slash regulations on drilling and exploration, giving states more freedom to approve development of federal land, and approve the Keystone XL pipeline.
“The governor will be emphasizing this between now and the election,” Romney adviser Ed Gillespie told reporters in a call detailing the plan. “We think it is a very high-priority issue for American voters.”
Romney campaign officials accused Obama of wasting resources on alternative energy and reiterated Romney’s opposition to extending a tax credit for wind energy that’s helped boost the industry in states like Iowa and Colorado.
Obama has noted in speeches that domestic energy production is already rising under his administration. He has also said that full independence without alternative energy is not possible based on the available estimates.
“There’s a problem with a strategy that only relies on drilling and that is, America uses more than 20 percent of the world’s oil,” Obama said in a speech on energy in March. “If we drilled every square inch of this country — so we went to your house and we went to the National Mall and we put up those rigs everywhere — we’d still have only 2 percent of the world’s known oil reserves.”
Romney’s advisers claim this statistic is “not a credible estimate” because it only counts “proved” energy reserves that have been discovered and can currently be extracted. They believe there’s a significant but unknown quantity ready for exploration with future technology that could somehow make up the difference, citing a report by the Institute for Energy Research that says the 20 billion “proved” barrels of oil are but a fraction of over 1.4 trillion barrels of “recoverable” energy.
While it’s true Obama didn’t include potential future discoveries in his statistic, the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service disagreed with Romney and the IER’s interpretation of how far undiscovered sources might take domestic production. They estimated in a report that only a small fraction of that amount — 135 billion barrels — is both undiscovered and technically recoverable.
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.