HOBBS, N.M. - Mitt Romney revealed a new energy policy today that will hinge on states, and not the federal government, being able to control energy development on federal land, a shift that the campaign says will result in North American energy independence by the year 2020.
It includes more offshore drilling options, evoking memories of the slogan introduced four years ago at the Republican National Convention in 2008: "Drill, baby, drill."
"If I'm the president of the United States in a few months here, I will set a national goal of America and North America, North American energy independence by 2020," Romney said. "That means we produce all the energy we use in North America. And there are a number of things I'm going to do to make that happen. It is achievable. This is not some pie-in-the-sky kind of thing."
To aid his speech, for the second time in a week Romney resorted to a prop to get his policy ideas across. Today, he came equipped with a bar graph to explain energy production in the U.S. Last week, Romney held a press conference and used a white board and dry erase marker to explain his Medicare plan.
Romney, who has been eager to return the focus of his campaign to the economy and away from the Rep. Todd Akin abortion controversy that has monopolized air time this week, stressed how his energy plan would provide more jobs for Americans who are struggling to find work:
"Let me tell you what the benefits are: 3 million jobs," he said. "That's a million in manufacturing. That's a lot of energy-related jobs. Three million jobs come back to this country by taking advantage of something we have right underneath our feet - that's oil and gas and coal. We're going to make it happen. We're going to create those jobs.
"Let me tell you what else it does: It adds $500 billion to the size of our economy," he said. "That's more good wages, that's an opportunity for more Americans to have a bright and prosperous future.
"It also means, by the way, tens of billions, potentially hundreds of billions of dollars of tax revenues going into states and the federal government, which can make sure we have a military second to none and schools that lead the world and care for our seniors, better roads and bridges," Romney added. "Accomplishing what I described right now also means lower energy prices for American families and, by the way, for American businesses."
In addition to shifting the power of energy development exploration on federal lands to the state level, Romney's policy also calls for opening more offshore drilling options, starting off the coast of the battleground state of Virginia and the Carolinas.
Romney's plan also calls for the pursuit of a "broader North American energy partnership" with Canada and Mexico that would include building the Keystone Pipeline, a development Romney calls for frequently on the stump while simultaneously criticizing the Obama administration's rejection of the pipeline.
Asked how the campaign will respond to criticism that Romney's plan favors the oil industry, members of which helped Romney raise $7 million in a single day of fundraising in Texas oil country earlier this week, Romney senior adviser Ed Gillespie said that those who will benefit from "unleashing" more energy resources are "consumers and families and workers who will get the benefit of more jobs and more affordable energy."
But the Obama campaign has already pounced, with former Clinton Energy Secretary Federico Pena writing in a statement on behalf of the campaign, "Only two days after a fundraiser hosted by the CEO of major oil companies, Romney is expected to defend billions in oil subsidies while opposing efforts to use oil more efficiently and develop homegrown alternative energy. We will never reach energy independence by turning our backs on homegrown renewable energy and better auto mileage.
"President Obama has championed an all-of-the-above approach to energy that responsibly develops America's great natural resources," Pena wrote. "And under President Obama, we are producing the most natural gas ever, the most oil in 14 years, and are on track to double the amount of electricity we get from renewable sources like wind and solar.
"We are investing in the future of clean coal, biofuels and other forms of energy," he added. "His investments in clean energy have already supported nearly 225,000 jobs and are helping American workers to compete with China and India for these jobs of the future. And affordable, homegrown sources of energy will strengthen American manufacturers and small businesses."