Colorado’s flagship newspaper, the Denver Post, is criticizing GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney for promoting an energy policy that focuses almost exclusively on drilling for fossil fuels.
On Sunday, the Post published an endorsement of President Obama and lamented Romney’s “drill-at-all-costs” energy policy that treats public lands only as areas for resource extraction:
Romney notes correctly that North America is poised to become an energy exporter. But the drill-at-all-costs mantra he is pushing runs counter to the predominant view in Colorado, which is one that balances energy and environment — particularly when it comes to public land. And, unlike the Republican nominee, we believe our nation’s energy portfolio must include government investment in renewable sources such as wind and solar — both of which can become sources of more power and more jobs in the future.
The endorsement comes as Romney and his running mate Paul Ryan campaign in Colorado this week. Polls show that the race is a dead heat in the important swing state.
Since releasing his energy policy in August, Romney has come under fire for his narrow focus on fossil fuel extraction. Energy expert Michael Levi has called it a “pipe dream”; cleantech experts have called it a “political document not worthy of serious analysis; and Obama blasted Romney in the most recent presidential debate for letting “the oil companies write the energy policies.”
One of the pillars of Romney’s energy plan is to transfer federal public lands to the states in order to encourage more drilling and mining. As the New York Times has described, giving states exclusive control over these protected lands makes it very likely that they are used for fossil fuel extraction: “States, as a rule, tend to be mainly interested in resource development.”
The plan doesn’t just ignore renewable energy, it ignores the enormous value of protecting these lands for recreation and tourism. For example, a recent study showed that the newly-announced Chimney Rock monument in Colorado will double the amount of visitors to the site over the next five years, increasing the economic impact from $1.2 million to $2.4 million.
A number of other recent studies illustrate the economic importance of protecting public lands. Headwaters Economics found that Western non-metro counties made up of at least one third public lands saw employment increase 344 percent over the last 40 years; the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found that homes located near wildlife refuges have higher values; and the Interior Department found that recreation on public lands supported more than 2.4 million jobs and $385 billion in economic activity in 2011.