Mitt RomneyMitt Romney.Photo: Gage SkidmoreWhere does Mitt Romney stand on climate change and energy issues? Brace yourself: He doesn’t have that flip-flopper reputation for nothing.


Romney used to be one of the more sane Republicans when it comes to climate change. He would play up uncertainty and use weasel words, but he still acknowledged global warming as a problem.

In his 2010 book No Apology: The Case for American Greatness, Romney wrote:

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I believe that climate change is occurring — the reduction in the size of global ice caps is hard to ignore. I also believe that human activity is a contributing factor. I am uncertain how much of the warming, however, is attributable to factors out of our control.

In June of 2011, he went so far as to suggest that we should actually do something about climate change. Do what? Well, definitely not cap-and-trade, but, you know, something:

I don’t speak for the scientific community, of course, but I believe the world’s getting warmer. I can’t prove that, but I believe based on what I read that the world is getting warmer. And number two, I believe that humans contribute to that. I don’t know how much our contribution is to that, ’cause I know that there have been periods of greater heat and warmth in the past, but I believe that we contribute to that. And so I think it’s important for us to reduce our emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases that may well be significant contributors to the climate change and the global warming that you’re seeing.

That statement actually elicited praise from Al Gore — much to the chagrin of the Romney camp, surely.

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Back when he was governor of Massachusetts, in 2004, Romney unveiled a Climate Protection Plan that aimed to reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2010 and then about 10 percent more by 2020, relying primarily on voluntary measures and requirements that applied only to the state government (though he did attach a letter to the plan emphasizing that he wasn’t sure whether climate change was really for real). His administration also helped shape the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a cap-and-trade system for Northeast states, though he pulled Massachusetts out of it in 2005, shortly before it launched.

In 2003, Romney even railed against a heavily polluting Massachusetts coal plant that he said “kills people.”


Fast-forward to the summer and fall of 2011, when a cast of looney-tunes Republican competitors made Romney look increasingly, suspiciously reasonable. Can’t have that, so …

In October 2011, Romney swiveled around on his climate views during a forum in Pennsylvania:

My view is that we don’t know what’s causing climate change on this planet. And the idea of spending trillions and trillions of dollars to try to reduce CO2 emissions is not the right course for us.

He went after Newt Gingrich for appearing with Nancy Pelosi in an ad promoting climate action.

He bashed the EPA, insisting that it had no business regulating greenhouse gas emissions (even though the Supreme Court told it to). “I exhale carbon dioxide,” Romney said. “I don’t want those guys following me around with a meter to see if I’m breathing too hard.”

He rounded up a bunch of coal-loving and EPA-hating campaign advisers, including key refugees from the George W. Bush admin.

He reversed his position on government support for renewable energy industries. He lambasted the Obama admin for supporting clean-car companies. He attacked the notion of green jobs, ignoring the 64,000 that have been created in his home state of Massachusetts. He dissed the Chevy Volt.

While belittling clean energy and cleantech, Romney has demonstrated his fealty to Big Oil, Big Coal, et al. He wants to maintain massive tax breaks for the oil industry. He backs plans for the Keystone XL pipeline. He joins fossil-fuel industries in opposing EPA’s efforts to reduce mercury, arsenic, lead, and smog pollution from power plants, cement manufacturers, and large industrial boilers.

“I will ensure we utilize to the fullest extent our nation’s nuclear know-how and immense reserves in oil, gas and coal,” he wrote in September 2011. “We are an energy-rich country that, thanks to environmental extremism, has chosen to live like an energy-poor country. That has to end.” That means drilling in the “the Gulf of Mexico, both the Atlantic and Pacific Outer Continental Shelves, Western lands, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and off the Alaska coast,” according to Romney’s economic plan [PDF]. “And it includes not only conventional reserves, but more recently discovered shale oil deposits as well.”

But lest you think Romney wants to drill everywhere, the Florida Everglades are off-limits. So, you see, he really is still a moderate.

See also: Old dog, Newt tricks: Gingrich’s views on climate, EPA, and ‘green conservatism’

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