Romney touts energy policy in North Dakota

FARGO, ND -- Hammering home his energy policy, Mitt Romney slammed President Obama Thursday, saying regulation and red tape have slowed the growth of energy production in the United States.

"This is a president who does not understand energy," Romney said at Wrigley Mechanical, a mechanical contracting company in Fargo, ND. "He is the problem, he is not the solution. It's time to get him out of the White House."

"He doesn't get any credit for the increase; he instead has tried to slow the growth of oil and gas production in this country, and coal production in this country," Romney continued on the President's energy record. "So far from taking credit he should be hanging his head and taking a little bit of the blame for what's going on today."

Advocating a more robust energy policy, the former Massachusetts governor is pushing for less regulation, more offshore drilling, and opening up more federal lands for production - including the Alaskan National Wildlife Reserve or ANWAR. "Let's take advantage of the energy resources in this country. It's time to get America energy secure."

Romney would also push for the construction of the Keystone pipeline, calling it "a no brainer," which he has repeatedly criticized the Obama administration for rejecting. The pipeline would create thousands of jobs and bring oil from Canada's into the United States, but environmental groups contend it will contribute to environmental degradation.

The focus on energy here in North Dakota, a "Super Tuesday" state, was no accident. Spurred by a full-on oil boom, North Dakota enjoys the country's lowest unemployment rate at 3.3% - a full 5 points lower than the national average. Tens of thousands of new jobs have been created and the state is now the 4th largest oil producer in the country, only behind Texas, Alaska, and California.

High energy prices - oil is hovering around $107 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange - coupled with new technologies have made oil exploration and drilling in the western half of the state profitable. Horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing - or "fracking - have opened up vast new oil fields in the Bakken Shale formation once thought unobtainable.

But the boom hasn't been without its controversies. During fracking, millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals - called sludge - are pumped into the ground at high pressures splitting open the rock formation to extract gas and oil. Environmentalists fear waterways and water tables near large population centers can become polluted if the process is not heavily regulated.