How Romney could use energy to beat Obama in 2012

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Published January 20, 2012

| FoxNews.com

With his win in the New Hampshire primary last week, Mitt Romney may be well on his way to becoming the Republican nominee for president.

In my view, he’s still unlikely to be beat Barack Obama in November, but never mind that. 

If Romney wants to win the White House, he’s going to need to embrace big issues that resonate with voters. Given that, here’s some free advice for Romney: 

1) Come out swinging on the issue of energy; and 

2) Declare your intention to make energy as cheap, abundant, and reliable as possible.

Indeed, given President Obama’s move on Wednesday to block the Keystone XL pipeline, Romney should immediately begin hammering the president’s inane energy policies. 

Romney can point to numerous examples of how the president has obstructed and even vilified the coal, oil and natural gas industries. 

He can point to the lavish subsidies Obama has given to unreliable and expensive sources like solar, biofuels and wind energy. Romney has a myriad of examples to prove his point, including the bankruptcy of solar-panel-maker Solyndra, which despite a $527 million loan guarantee from the Department of Energy, could not compete with overseas producers.

He can also point out that two weeks before Solyndra's bankruptcy, the White House announced that the Departments of Agriculture, Energy and Navy will "invest up to $510 million during the next three years" to develop "advanced drop-in aviation and marine biofuels to power military and commercial transportation." 

Never mind that the entire notion of "advanced biofuels" has been a colossal failure. 

Despite decades of hype and tens of millions of dollars in subsidies, the U.S. still doesn't have any substantive biofuel production other than the corn ethanol boondoggle, which is now consuming about 40 percent of all U.S. corn production. 

The result of the Obama administration’s biofuel lunacy can be seen in the wreckage of Range Fuels, a biofuels company which, despite big promises and tens of millions of dollars in federal grants and loan guarantees, recently followed Solyndra into ignominy.

Or Romney could underscore the Obama administration’s continuing infatuation with electric vehicles and the ongoing bust in that sector. 

Obama has pumped some $5 billion in grants and loan guarantees into the EV business. Despite the hype, consumers are staying away in droves. The latest sales data for the Chevy Volt and the Nissan Leaf, show that the two cars have combined to capture about two-tenths of 1 percent of domestic cars sales. The reason: EV prices are still too high and their performance, despite more than a century of promises, remains -- how to put his charitably? – less than impressive.

Meanwhile, the domestic drilling industry has made amazing strides in helping to make cheap, abundant, reliable energy into a reality. All Romney has to do is acknowledge that fact by pointing to the current price of natural gas. 

Despite the fact that we are now in the middle of winter, when demand for gas, and gas prices, are usually at, or near, their annual peaks, the latest spot price for natural gas at the Henry Hub in Louisiana is about $2.66 per million Btu. That’s the lowest winter-time price since 2002. And that’s resulting in huge savings for consumers.

Over the four-year period from 2005 to 2008, U.S. natural-gas prices averaged about $7 per million Btu. To make the math easy, let’s say that the current price of gas is $3 per million Btu, or $4 below the price level that predominated during the middle of the last decade. 

The U.S. is now consuming about 24 trillion cubic feet of gas per year. From here the math is obvious: the shale revolution is now saving American consumers about $96 billion per year, or about $263 million per day.

The corollary talking point for Romney is equally apparent: those low prices are a direct result of the widespread use of hydraulic fracturing, the decades-old process that environmental groups – and some members of the media – are actively trying to demonize.

The flood of low-cost natural gas now flowing through America’s pipelines is incredibly good news, particularly at a time when 46 million Americans are on food stamps, and unemployment, and underemployment levels remain stubbornly high. 

If I were Romney, I’d be trumpeting the success of the domestic drilling industry and celebrating the benefits of low-cost natural gas along with the resurgence of domestic oil production. And I’d do it while pointing to the myriad statements made by Obama over the past few years in which he makes the drilling sector sound like it’s Public Enemy Number One.

To be fair, Romney has an energy platform. And to his credit, he says he would seek regulations that “would facilitate rapid progress in the development of our domestic reserves of oil and natural gas and allow further investment in nuclear power.” But his energy ideas are fairly well buried on his campaign website.

Winning campaigns have likeable candidates who connect with voters, and who are armed with catchy slogans on issues that matter. By promoting the need for cheap, abundant, and reliable energy, Romney might – repeat, might – help himself unseat Obama.

Robert Bryce is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. His latest book, recently issued in paperback, is "Power Hungry: The Myths of 'Green' Energy and the Real Fuels of the Future."

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