Obama, Romney Differ On Best Way to Meet Nation’s Energy Needs

Tom Johnson | October 3, 2012 | Energy & Environment
President favors alternative sources; GOP rival leans toward traditional fossil fuels

When President Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney debate tonight, one of the starkest contrasts to emerge may be their views on energy policy.

Who would be the winners and losers in the energy sector, depending on how next month’s election plays out?

IBISWorld Inc., a California industry research firm, tried to project various risk estimates in the diverse energy sector, whether it be fossil fuels, nuclear power or renewable energy.

If Romney prevails, the analysis predicted, it would lower the risk for the oil-drilling and gas-extraction industry, with a likely decrease in regulations and restrictions for oil and gas extraction, a step that would foster industry growth.

On the other hand, the analysis projected, both wind and solar power would face increased risks with a Romney victory. Subsidies for wind and solar power would likely end under a Romney administration, leading to a slower growth in revenue, the analysis said.

A second Obama administration is likely to continue funding wind and solar power, given its proposed “Clean Electricity Standard’’ the analysis said. That plan would require that 80 percent of the nation’s electricity be produced from zero-carbon sources, such as wind and solar power, by 2035.

“Government funding for alternative energy projects would contribute to revenue growth for the respective industries and their upstream suppliers and downstream buyers,’’ the analysis said.

Unlike Obama, Romney would likely focus on fossil fuels, instead of renewable energy sources, a strategy aimed at promoting energy independence and creating jobs, according to the analysis.

Both candidates support expansion of nuclear energy, although the analysis predicted under a Romney administration nuclear power plants with certain specifications would be built more quickly, bolstering industry growth.

“Romney’s plans are expected to lead to a more rapid expansion for this industry than is projected under Obama’s policies,’’ the report said, reducing the risk the sector would face under a new Republican administration.

In New Jersey, the election outcome could reshape the state’s energy policies, which in recent years have promoted the development of cleaner sources of electricity, such as solar and wind power. The state also has much of its electricity produced by nuclear power plants, a trend that could increase in the future if Public Service Enterprise Group decides to build a fourth nuclear unit at its facility in Salem County.

The state also is banking on tapping reserves of natural gas found in Pennsylvania and New York to help lower energy costs for consumers by using it to produce cheaper electricity.