Why Romney Is Polishing Energy’s Apple

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On Tuesday night in Dallas, Mitt Romney made one thing clear: he was not “just polishing the apple for T. Boone Pickens here,” he said, when he began his policy remarks at a fundraiser with Pickens, an oil and gas investor, by talking about energy.

The truth is, as Romney pointed out, he almost always starts talking policy by focusing on energy, whether or not he has an audience of energy executives. And it’s his condemnation of President Obama on the topic that often gets him the loudest applause. Romney knocks Obama for enacting air-pollution regulations that hurt coal miners, for not opening public lands quickly enough to drilling and for not approving the Keystone Pipeline. Such rhetoric has long been standard for Republican campaigns. Even the GOP’s 2008 candidate, John McCain, who supported climate-change legislation, chanted “Drill, baby, drill” on the trail.

But there is reason to think this year is different. Unlike McCain, Romney has more fully embraced the policy agenda of the fossil-fuel industry, and in a campaign that may come down to a question of fundraising, the fossil-fuel industry is coming out big for Romney.

In the Oct. 1 issue of TIME, I have a story looking at this outpouring of support. Large coal and oil companies and their executives are major funders of the outside spending groups working to defeat Obama. Many other groups, like the American Petroleum Institute, are funding expensive issue advertising campaigns that make no mention of the election but urge voters to vote for more domestic oil and gas production.

In Ohio, this support is particularly notable in the form of Robert E. Murray, a colorful coal-company executive who has made defeating Obama a personal and professional goal. A sign outside one of his mines the length of a hopper car reads “Fire Obama,” and his workers were organized by a manager in May to protest a Joe Biden event in hard hats. In August, when Romney came through town, Murray closed his mines and asked his workers to attend a rally, which now features prominently in two new ads the campaign has released. Murray doesn’t hold back. As he told me, “Bear-ick Obama is the greatest enemy that these regions of the country have.” He tends to mispronounce the President’s first name.

(PHOTOS: Political Pictures of the Week, Sept. 7–14)

On Tuesday, Alpha Natural Resources, a Virginia coal firm that has given to anti-Obama groups, announced 1,200 layoffs and the closure of at least eight mines. The Romney campaign quickly pounced. “For four years, President Obama has waged a war on coal that has devastated the middle class and American workers,” said Ryan Williams, a campaign spokesman. The causes for the Alpha layoffs, and for Murray’s concern, are complex: a soft economy, softening international markets, record-low natural-gas prices and new regulatory hurdles. But the potential to move votes in two key swing states — Virginia and Ohio — is very real.

In August, Obama started playing defense in Murray’s southeastern Ohio neighborhood with a radio ad that pointed to the increase in local coal production over the past few years and Romney’s coal-bashing rhetoric from his days as governor of Massachusetts. But Democratic concern remains.

One of the oft unstated facts of the energy debate is that it pits regions against each other. What was a boon for Obama in 2007 and ’08 — talking about green energy in ethanol- and wind-rich Iowa — can be a drag in Ohio and Virginia, which were less crucial in the high-flying days of ’08. So when Romney talks about energy, he’s not just playing the room. He’s talking about an issue that could have a major impact on the election.

MORE: War on Coal: Why Polluting Plants Are Shutting Down Nationwide

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Jill Louis
Jill Louis

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JohnYuEsq
JohnYuEsq

Money means power. Concentrated wealth at the top means extraordinary power at the top. The reason Romney pays a rate of only 14 percent on $13 million of income in 2011 -- a lower rate than many in the middle class -- is because he exploits a loophole that allows private equity managers to treat their income as capital gains, taxed at only 15 percent.

And that loophole exists solely because private equity and hedge fund managers have so much political clout -- as a result of their huge fortunes and the money they've donated to political candidates -- that neither party will remove it.

In other words, everything America is learning about Mitt Romney -- his tax returns, his years at Bain Capital, the video of his speech to high-end donors in which he belittles half of America, his gaffes, the budget policies he promotes -- repeat and reenforce the same underlying reality.

So much wealth and power have accumulated at the top of America that our economy and our democracy are seriously threatened. Romney not only represents this problem. He is the living embodiment of it.

ROBERT B. REICH, Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley

formerlyjamesm
formerlyjamesm

Willie Sutton, the bank robber, said he was in that business because that is where the money is.  Same with Mittens.

ahandout
ahandout

Better headline: Liberal Media Browns their Noses for the White House. 

akpat
akpat

Lived in Maine a while back. Had a house on the Kennebunk river, a river marked with warning signs not to eat the fish . Seems the coal supplied mercury from the great lake states fell on Maine.

In the meantime we have a glut of crude here in the US. Thats what the pipeline is all about. Running Canadian dirty crude down to the ports around Houston for export o the world market but it surprising the number of people who think it will reduce the price of gas.

Open your eyes the price of crude is determined by a small cartel.

ahandout
ahandout

 The devalued dollar adds about 30-40% to the cost of oil that we import.

MrObvious
MrObvious

The Canadian company already told the Canadian government what they're doing; by shipping the oil to the coast for export it'll increase the prices in the midwest since there will be less supply to the midwest. This is a scheme to help us export their oil.

Not to lower our gas prices. If that was the case the companies right now would stop exporting gasoline in order to inflate prices as they do right now.

Ivy_B
Ivy_B

Not to mention the possibility of a leak poisoning the aquafer that supplies drinking water for a number of states.

Glen Fiddich
Glen Fiddich

 

Captain Romney Of The GOP

Titanic.  

 

Senate and House Republicans now look at Mitt Romney

and see the second coming of George W. Bush and are  running away from him as fast as they can. They do not mind if

their captain goes down with the ship after having run it into the iceberg, but

they still want to get on the lifeboats.

 

Which suggests an interesting idea:  if the November election were between Romney

and Dubbya, who would you vote for?

Sardonic_Soul
Sardonic_Soul

Barrack Obama is NOT a leader, but he plays one on TV.  Make sure to watch and wince at his amateurish performance in his limited time engagement as star in tragedy "Death of an Empire" and be SURE to register your feelings about this awful production this November 6th at a poling place near you!  

prestalex
prestalex

Michael,

You could have mentioned Boon Pickin's vision of creating the world's largest wind farm...in Texas, a project that had to be shelved due to insufficient support from Congress. And you might also have mentioned that final approval for the Keystone project is in the hands of the Army Corps of Engineers and the President must await their review before saying yes or no to that project.

One final thought: I am very grateful to see coal phased out from our energy mix. Why? Because my children should not be ingesting poisonous Mercury and Lead that falls downwind from power plants that use coal. Romney, however, gets to breathe the fresh air of the Cayman Islands...while counting the money in his off-shore accounts.

sacredh
sacredh

Why Romney Is Polishing Energy’s Knob

.

Fixed it.

ahandout
ahandout

 Let's see that's about a 12-13 year olds remark if I remember my school yard days right.  Why is your mommy letting you view an adult website for grownups?   Try the discovery channel until you and your friends grow up.

sacredh
sacredh

Mommy lets me do this because she can't stand that elitist flip-flopper that hides money offshore either. Tag. You're it.

AfGuyReturns
AfGuyReturns

And I held off ALL DAY not making that reference...!!

And why am I not surprised it was YOU that came up with it instead?

sacredh
sacredh

Because I got told to go home because I had the flu and everyone was shunning me at work? Plus, I grossed a couple of guys out when I puked.

Glen Fiddich
Glen Fiddich

 

One of the more poignant passages

in the Declaration of Independence is this: "all experience hath shewn,

that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to

right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed" 

 

It is worth bearing in mind that while the rich keep

clawing away at common people's savings, always digging for people's last 5¢ --

most people suffer those evils to the extent that they can because the

alternative is grave and not to be taken lightly. I would caution the super

wealthy to restrain themselves from pushing people too far, it might just come

to bite them in the rear. 

 

People like Romney, and all of those other robber-barons

with him seem unable to be satiated by any quantity of wealth. So much so that

they are not only willing, but apparently happy to come after working class

people to appropriate their social securities and dignity.

 

With his comments made at the

fundraiser, Romney all but said we wished to return to the days of a landed

aristocracy. 

 

One can readily imagine him as one of the loathsome

characters in a Charles Dickens novels. He has revealed himself as a villain. 

 

Is he also a ‘sufferable evil’?

COfoEVA
COfoEVA

Are these the same coal miners who had to be forced to go to a mandatory Romney rally?  I'm pretty sure their bosses cant tell them how to vote, thank goodness.

6282005
6282005

I am from a family of coal mners.  I wasn't aware we moved up to middle class...  Hooray!  Although, that means "lower class" must really have it bad!

COfoEVA
COfoEVA

 Apparently you dont take personal responsibility for your life either, you should work on that.

AlistairCookie
AlistairCookie

So, I guess I was right? 

Paulejb is all over the Romney campaign thread, but it's crickets over here.  Groenhagen is tin foil hatting over the Famp;F probe turning up that the Right was unnecessarily hysterical, but again, nothing here.  Nothing about this they can even try to spin? 

Gauntlet thrown--I want a right winger, preferably one of our old friends--but I'm not picky, to explain how what was done to/with these workers is even remotely okay.  Or denounce it officially as "your side" actually did something wrong.  That doesn't violate the spirit of Thursday, does it?

Pollopa
Pollopa

It was the safest day they've had in awhile.  No recordable injuries occurred listening to Mitt, though they probably went home sick.

Juaquin Mann
Juaquin Mann

Murdering Murray, angry because he was held accountable for his profit over workers approach to mining. He would take us back to 19th century if he  could. Matter a fact so would Romeny and Ryan.

Sue_N.
Sue_N.

Wait, let's be clear. Romney knocks Obama for new air pollution regulations that hurt coal miners, or hurt coal mine owners? Because the two –and their interests – are not the same.

forgottenlord
forgottenlord

Well, I've never been down to a coal mine but many of my best friends are coal mine owners

mtngoatjoe
mtngoatjoe

I thought coal was clean. Isn't that what all those commercials said? They couldn't be lying, could they?

JohnYuEsq
JohnYuEsq

skyvillage10:00 AM PDT

Americans have absolutely no idea how much Romney types and other Wall Street hotshots are using government handouts and government-funded zero interest rate loans to make absolutely staggering amounts of money. Romney didn't start a single business--he merely got some very cheap money from the Fed (funneled through government-backed banks) and did a lot of buying and selling and churning of assets and stocks, paying himself a huge amount of money in the process.   Basically, Romney got a bunch of free money from the government in the form of low interest loans, and laundered it and stuck it in his pocket. And he got the dirt cheap money in the first place because his Dad was a big shot.  The whole game is set up to funnel easy money to Romney-like big shots, and all they have to do is stick out their hands. They hire a few lawyers and accountants to put a "legit" stamp on their money laundering, and they generate no actual economy, hire very few people, and keep the rest of us toiling away at go nowhere jobs or worse.  That's why Romney knows so much about "dependency" on the government. He and his kind are the master of that game.

Glen Fiddich
Glen Fiddich

Mitt was just telling me last night that he only dislikes 99% of Americans.

 "Paule," he said, getting my name wrong while chomping on an

h'odouerve that cost more than your best pair of shoes, "I really

dislike that Dion Chomsky fellow."  

"Who?" I asked, slurping up champagne whose every bubble is worth more than your wife's best dress.  

"You know, that pro-Dem spam-bot opinionator for the New

Republic."  And I said, "No, Mitt, you're thinking about Howard Zinn."  

And he said, "Zinn, Dion, what's the difference?" 

And I said, "Actually, big guy, you've got a point."  

Then he said, "Too bad he gave up his singing career to become a political hack. Because I really liked 'The Wanderer'." 

And then we went out on the balcony and smoked cigars that cost more than your house.

Pollopa
Pollopa

I work for the oil industry, and I am an Obama supporter.  The policies that regulate our industry have not made us poorer as an idustry that's for sure. Where I work we are very proud of our environmental and safety records.  We invite agencies to look into our workplace, and rarely have had incidents that cause regulators to lay major fines or citations on us.  Can I say that for our entire business no, but if you worked in this business you would know the huge effort it takes in this kind of heavy industrial environment to be clean and safe. I can say that our business does recognize that if we don't make ourselves part of the community we are in by making our footprint as small as possible, we are doomed.  Other industries around us have failed because the footprint they made was big and deep. Its called sustaining a business.  You will not survive long term playing games with a community's health.  The impacts are felt and if too costly will ultimately ruin the relationship needed.  These are jobs we are talking about whether turning a wrench or sampling the effluent water. Communities rely on this high wage jobs as long as the community can remain healthy, and industries want healthy happy people working for them. It's hits the bottom line on profitability.  Let's face it you can't change overnight energy sources.  You can decrease the usage. You can decrease pollution in its creation. You can find alternatives.  All of these our President has put on the table.  You may not like that he has a belief we can sustain a coal industry for some time, or that he may help a new solar company try to get a foothold on the market, but if we don't try to transistion responsibly, we all pay with our health and our pocketbook. The company I work for hired me to help make sure it is profitable and sustainable.  There will come a day that this business is no longer needed by the market, but until then we must work together, and not make enemies of each other for our community and our nation. We all have a part to play in reducing or changing our energy use.

COfoEVA
COfoEVA

 I am and engineer designing oil facilities for the oil sands.  I will definitely be voting Obama.  Our company will do much better with him as president.  The bush years were the only time in the history of our company that we didn't hit our growth goals.

ahandout
ahandout

 You didn't explain why:  Because under Obama the price of oil has gone up and will continue to rise.

COfoEVA
COfoEVA

Ya the price of oil will rise under obama, or romney, or if we had a wombat in the white house.  The price of oil has very little to do with the president or his policies.  As the amount of oil on earth declines the price goes up.  Have you ever heard of supply and demand?  No one can stop it, the trend is independent of the markets.  The only real option is to turn to alternative forms of energy ASAP, which our company also works heavily on.

groovecity
groovecity

You are and engineer, and I'm the CEO of Boing. Yeah right. Liar!

kendall rhodes
kendall rhodes

Hey moron, the company name is spelled Boeing. WTF is "Biong" anyway dummy!? (good grief.)

COfoEVA
COfoEVA

 Did you mean to say Boeing?

I am an engineer, Graduated Civil Engineering from Northern Arizona University May 2010.  Took me over a year and a half to find a good job, but now i work for one of the largest engineering companies in the world.

Definitely voting Obama, just like I did in 2008.  Our company has done much better under democratic presidents than republican historically, even though taxes were higher.

Ivy_B
Ivy_B

That's good to hear.

As much as people complain about Exxon Mobil, they were held up as an example during the BP disaster in the Gulf because their self-regulation wouldn't allow something like that to happen.

doddeb
doddeb

Pollopa:  I appreciate that your company is so responsible.  In Ohio, with the fracking, I'm not as concerned with established companies that have proven safety records (although things can go wrong even then).  I'm concerned with the more easy-money, wildcatter types that are attracted to the immense profits that can be had.  I talked with one of the executives in Ohio's Gas and Oil lobbying group, and he told me that Ohio has some of the most comprehensive regulations surrounding the fracking process.  I checked, and he is correct.  But we also have a Republican governor who does his level best to cut funding to the state EPA, which are the folks who would be checking on compliance.

.

I agree that getting away from fossil fuels is going to be a long process.  But the problem I have is that one political party's growing disdain for science is preventing us all from having the public discussion we need to have about what that process should look like. 

Ivy_B
Ivy_B

In PA on the other hand, we are just beginning with fracking and we have a Republican governor who has refused to put any tax on the companies and insisted that the regulations proposed were very relaxed. Of course the people who stayed home in 2010 gave us a Republican House to go with the already Republican Senate, so the governor has pretty much free rein.

I'm sure it's a mere coincidence that the largest donor to the governor's campaign was the biggest fracking company.