Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney slammed the current federal policies on oil and gas drilling today during both his morning meet-and-greet with campaign workers in Harrisburg and his jaunt northeast to a Scranton-area company involved in hauling the millions of gallons of fluids used in hydraulic fracturing.
Despite being flanked by water trucks that proclaimed "vote Romney for president," energy talk made up only about two of the 15 minutes he addressed the crowd of several hundred.
But he aimed his comments squarely at President Barack Obama -- never mentioning former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum or his other GOP primary opponents. Romney described Obama as "an anti-energy president," and pledged to boost development of oil, gas and coal resources if he is elected.
"This president has eight different agencies trying to fight their way to become regulators of the gas extraction technology known as fracking," Romney told the crowd at the Wyoming County business. "And the intent of course is to slow down the development of our own resources."
He also made a quip about Obama's stated "all of the above" policy on energy sources, saying the Democrat backs resources that come from above the ground -- such as wind and solar -- but not those from below the ground.
"I’m actually for everything that comes from above and everything that comes from below," he said. "I want to get energy in this country and become energy secure."
Romney didn't take policy questions after his speech. He walked away to continue greeting voters when this reporter tried to ask him more about the role he sees for the federal Environmental Protection Agency in overseeing drilling and when another reporter posed a similar question. (He did answer a question from CNN about whether the Augusta National Golf Club should allow women to play there.)
His full remarks on energy policy are below, but first a crowd-sourcing question for our readers: Romney claimed that eight federal agencies are involved in gas drilling oversight -- can you come up with all eight? The Department of Energy and the EPA are two obvious ones, but what agencies do you think make up the other six? I'll post a full list once we track them down.
UPDATE, 7 p.m. -- Our friends at StateImpact Pennsylvania have the breakdown on the federal agencies involved in drilling oversight:
"The Environmental Protection Agency and Departments of Energy; Interior; Justice; Agriculture; Health and Human Services; and Securities and Exchange Commission have all regulated or investigated hydraulic fracturing in recent years. The Department of Defense plays a major role in shaping eastern Pennsylvania drilling policy, since the Army Corps of Engineers holds a vote on the Delaware River Basin Commission."
Mitt Romney, speaking at Tunkhannock-based Mountain Energy Services, Inc:
“He has done almost everything imaginable to make it harder to get oil and gas and coal and nuclear power. With regard to gas, as you know, for years, this technology, using fluids, fracking technology, to bring gas and oil out of the ground have been employed and innovated and have been regulated by the states.
But now this president has eight different agencies trying to fight their way to become regulators of the gas extraction technology known as fracking. And the intent of course is to slow down the development of our own resources. The same thing is happening in oil, where he put a moratorium on drilling in the Gulf [of Mexico]. We haven’t taken advantage of our outer continental shelf , we haven’t taken advantage of the oil we have in Alaska. He’s made it harder and harder to take advantage of our oil resources.
And then coal, a number of you are familiar with the coal industry. New regulations there from the EPA make it harder to mine coal, harder to use coal. This president has been an anti-energy president, and if I’m president, I will make sure we get our gas, our oil, our coal, and we will build that pipeline of oil from Canada that will bring more oil into this country.
“[President Obama] said the other day, by the way, did you hear that he said that… You know, sometimes you hear what he says but it’s such striking contrast with what he does, I mean it’s like your head goes around. You know, you just wonder, can he really be saying that?
"The other day, he said he was for ‘all of the above’ in the energy world. And I thought: how in the world can he be saying that? Then I realized he probably means he’s for all the energy sources above the ground, all right. So he’s for solar and wind, which are just fine, but he doesn’t like coal, oil, gas because they’re below ground. Now we understand ‘Obama-speak’ a little better. I’m actually for everything that comes from above and everything that comes from below. I want to get energy in this country and become energy secure.”
UPDATE, 5:15 p.m. -- Here's a response from the Obama campaign on Romney's energy remarks, saying that the GOP frontrunner also uses "all of the above" to describe which energy sources he supports:
Governor Romney has spent the past year attacking the administration’s investments in clean energy and committed to a budget that would gut funding for research and development. Instead, he has advocated a backward looking drilling and drilling alone strategy that wouldn’t allow America to take control of our energy future.
But in today’s Boston Globe, the Romney campaign previewed his next etch-a-sketch moment, calling for an “all of the above energy strategy” that will “support basic research in new energy technologies.” That’s the energy strategy that Governor Romney has attacked President Obama for pursuing. Under President Obama, we have increased our domestic production of oil to an 8-year high and decreased our dependence on foreign oil to a 16-year low while doubling the production of renewables. The position Romney says he has today may come as a surprise to the Republican primary voters Governor Romney made an entirely different set of promises to, attacking investments in clean energy as he campaigned across the country.
But walking away from his promises and reinventing his positions as the political audience changes is old habit to Governor Romney. After all, when he was Governor of Massachusetts, Governor Romney lobbied on behalf of a regional cap and trade pact that he stopped supporting when he started running in the Republican primary for President. What’s next? Will Romney deny that he opposed higher fuel economy standards that will save consumers $8,000 at the pump on the average vehicle? Or that his tax plan would continue to charge consumers $4 billion a year for subsidies for oil and gas companies making record profits?