Last night, many Americans had their first opportunity to hear Mitt Romney's views on environmental and clean energy issues. Now, I know you think he didn't say a word about the environment, but his message was hidden in a lack of details. Let's quickly dissectt.
On the environment, Romney really ignored mentioning the environment by name. What he did say was that the federal government should give regulatory authority to the states in as many areas as possible. That is code for letting the states enforce clean air and clean water laws.
So, why shouldn't states be the ones that bottom-line the quality of the air we breathe and the water we drink?
That's actually pretty straightforward if we look at the Commonwealth of Virginia. For starters, states don't have the money to enforce environmental safeguards. It's regular that when budgets are cut in the states that Departments of Environmental Protection see massive cuts. As recently as the Warner administration, Virginia's DEQ was cut by 16% in one year.
Secondly, the lack of funding from general funds makes states more dependent on permit fees, otherwise known as the cost to do business. I don't know if you've noticed, but Virginia prides itself on some of the lowest permit fees in the country. You know, "open for business" and all.
Finally, turning over regulatory authority to the states increases the political volatility of the rules that protect our environment. Can you imagine what southwest Virginia would look like if Bob McDonnell was in charge of approving mountaintop removal permits? You'd be able to see from Blacksburg to Bristol without any pesky mountain ridges in your way.
On clean energy, Romney decided he would attack President Obama for investing billions from the stimulus into clean energy. He cited the Republican boogeyman Solyndra as a failed example. Let me cite three examples of why that was a smart investment for America.
First, the funds associated with home weatherization. Just last month, the stimulus crossed 1 million homes weatherized. That's improving the energy efficiency of low-income homes all across America. The result of this investment has been an average savings of 30% on utility bills for these consumers. Now, think about your home, and consider what 30% in savings would do for your bank account and how you would spend that money. Weatherization saves consumers money and strengthens the economy.
Romney wants the American people to believe that every solar company assisted by the Obama administration was like Solyndra. It's not true. The stimulus helped make solar energy reachable for many middle class families. Here in Virginia, that led businesses like Continuum Energy Solutions to be able to double the size of its workforce.
Finally, investments in clean energy have led to an explosion of renewable energy onto the grid. Obama did not pick winners or losers, he simply leveled the playing field for a time. The result of these investments has been that wind energy is now price competitive with fossil fuels and solar is more competitive in price than it ever has been before.
It's unfortunate that President Obama didn't call Romney out for his lack of detail, or on his onerous assertions in regard to energy. Hopefully, in the future he will hold Mitt accountable. In the meantime, we can be swiftboated by the Romney campaign when it comes to these issues either.
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