Thursday, February 11 , 2016, 9:13 pm | Fair 54º

Jim Hightower: Romney’s Hamm-handed Energy Policy

Presidential hopeful 'taps the expertise' of an industry chieftain

By Jim Hightower |

Poor Mitt Romney. He keeps trying to prop up his bad policy proposals with gimmicky political props that flop.

He recently unveiled his energy policy, for example, in Hobbs, N.M., rather than in ExxonMobil’s boardroom, which is the only place his oil-soaked proposal would actually receive genuine, full-throated huzzahs. But a group of hip-hip-hooraying fat-cats in suits is not quite the down-home, regular-guy image that Mr. Multimillionaire is presently trying to project to voters. Thus, like a flimflam man pitching snake oil, Romney set up an outdoor stage in front of an oil rig in Hobbs, and a local industry chieftain assembled an audience of workers in hard hats to be his regular-guy props.

To add to the hype, he had a chart with a bar graph onstage with him, supposedly to give a smear of credibility to his wondrous claims. However, the chart was too small for the audience to see, plus the wind kept threatening to blow it off the stage. No problem, though — Romney just faked it.

“On the left hand side,” he flimmed and flammed, “you see a bar there that represents, you can’t read the writing, it’s too far back, but I can read it ... so I’m going to tell you what it says.” Then he concluded with: “As you can see” — even though people could not see it. It was perfect PR puffery.

Only, it didn’t work. As he pitched a policy that literally had been written by Big Oil drillers, frackers and pipeliners, his audience of hard hats looked on in bafflement. It was as though they were watching a rich financier and buddy of the bosses trying to sell them a pig in a poke — which is exactly what they were selling.

Romney failed to mention it during his show-and-tell flimflam routine, but on his way to Hobbs, he stopped in Texas, where he picked up a cool $7 million from oil executives at an industry fundraiser. Now that’s the genuine Mitt.

And speaking of oil executives, past and current, pro-oil energy policy promoter Dick Cheney is known to snarl more than he smiles, but the former VP and ex-oil executive must be grinning from ear to ear now that Romney has issued his energy plan.

By “his,” I mean Cheney’s — the one he drafted in secrecy with a cabal of industry chieftains a decade ago. They couldn’t get all of their agenda enacted, however, so imagine their excitement over Romney’s recent proposal, which out-Cheneys Cheney. In a breathtaking surrender of America’s energy future to Big Oil profiteers, Romney revives the maniacal fervor of the “drill, baby, drill” crowd, pushes “fracking” with a vengeance, runs the filthy Keystone XL pipeline right through the heart of America, zeros-out federal tax credits for wind and solar alternatives to oil, and maintains the $4-billion-a-year subsidy for oil corporations — among other giveaways.

Then he doubles down on energy stupidity by undoing Teddy Roosevelt’s logical decision that our national lands should be under the control of ... well, national policymakers. Instead, capitulating to industry’s wildest dream, Romney would cede control over drilling and mining on nationally owned public land to the various states, most of which are run by industry-coddling, corporate-financed politicians. It’s like asking a coyote to guard your last lamb chop!

Who wrote this “plan”? Harold Hamm, for one. CEO of Continental Resources, an oil and gas fracking corporation, this Oklahoma billionaire chairs Romney’s energy advisory committee. A campaign aide insists that Hamm and other industry executives (who showered Romney with more than $10 million in campaign funds in August alone) were allowed to write the policy not as payback, but “simply to tap their expertise.”

Uh-huh. Expertise at serving their own interests, our national interest be damned.

Jim Hightower is a national radio commentator, writer, public speaker and author of Swim Against The Current: Even A Dead Fish Can Go With The Flow. Click here for more information, or click here to contact him.

» on 09.12.12 @ 08:45 PM

What a completely worthless tirade. Jimmy who would you have asked to help write an energy policy? The CEO of Solyndra? Oh, I know, how about Al Gore?!

So far all the things you dip wads on the left have done have not made us energy independent and resulted in pushing more people into poverty than anything else economically. The high energy prices you morons continue to tout as “necessary” to change our energy paradigm from oil to nut case have managed to hurt the poor the most, squeeze the middle class and make a bunch of alternative energy losers rich right along with the oil industry. Ya, that’s right you ignorant numb nut, restricting oil drilling, fracking and pipelines punishes us you twit while increasing the profit margin on oil.

But hey you keep living your worthless do nothing life on the back of petroleum while denigrating all who make that worthless life of yours possible all the while screwing the poor you lie about caring for.

» on 09.13.12 @ 06:33 AM

Remember the G Gordon Liddy - Timothy Leary traveling debate show of the ‘80’s?  Wouldn’t it be fun to have something similar today, between Jim Hightower and Michelle Malkin?  For one thing, we’d all learn how to craft more entertaining insults.  They’re both way more fun to read than the other Noozhawk contributors (OK, Randy Alcorn comes close.)

» on 09.13.12 @ 10:06 AM

Hightower kicks your butt, doesn’t he Bishop?

“...resulted in pushing more people into poverty than anything else economically.”

What? You are losing it, old man. I mean “dip wad” “moron” “nut case” “loser” “ignorant numb nut” “twit” “worthless do nothing”. Yeah.

» on 09.13.12 @ 11:48 AM

Just following your example ramjet.

» on 09.13.12 @ 01:11 PM

Rambler, FYI-

Energy Policy 101.

- Drill, Frack and exploit all hydrocarbon sources. 

>  Make sure adequate regulations in place to protect   offshore ecosystems.
>  Beef up off and on shore transportation to ensure higher level of risk mitigation.
>  Revamp existing regulations regarding hydrofracking to ensure safety of ground water supplies.
>  Institute better land management policies concerning strip mining coal deposits.

Goal – produce enough hydrocarbon fuel to stabilize world fuel prices and drive them down while increasing steady revenue stream for alternatives development.

- Rewrite trade law to require all hydrocarbon importers develop, extract, produce, transport and refine to US standards. Those that don’t impose equitable tax.

Goal – stop penalizing national interests over global. Force global producers to the same standards we impose on domestic industry.

- Change tax and regulatory fee structures so that fees penalties and surplus revenue is directed to developing geothermal, nuclear, industrial solar (roof top), wind and other renewables.

Goal – have these alternative sources developed on SURPLUS revenue, rather than rely on higher energy prices. Priority should be given to those sources with the highest capacity, steadiest state supply and longest lasting supply (geothermal).

Ultimate goal is energy independence while driving energy costs DOWN not only domestically but globally. The end result is we will spike hydrocarbon output, increase CO2 production followed by a steady decline. If enough geothermal can be produced to actually offset the production of transportation hydrocarbons then our transportation infrastructure will remain strong and economically viable for all people to enjoy, not just the wealthy.

Future carbon stocks could be achieved by carbon sequestration from the atmosphere, mimicking natural sequestration (vegetation). However none of this works unless the ultimate goal is cheaper more abundant energy for all.

Ok I realize this is crude and unrefined and there may be many problems with it. However we can write in a bunch of opinionated crap like Hightower, criticize anyone we don’t agree with or we can actually think about the problem and throw our ideas out there. These are mine, feel free to criticize and tear apart and show what a mental midget you are or throw your own ideas out there and what goals you have and lets have a debate.

» on 09.13.12 @ 02:06 PM

AN50, thanks for the thoughtful response. I’ll throw a few of mine (or ones I’ve liked and adopted) out there:

1. No future economy can have a sound basis in fossil fuel energy. We can’t cure the economy on the North Dakota fracking model.

2. Our coal, oil, and gas are limited and only there until we remove them. They should be regarded as national reserves: their extraction, refinement, sale, and use should be for competitive pricing and defensive stockpile. We already subsidize this industry.

3. Start educating the public about new nuclear technologies such as the Toshiba 4S. Start planning for distributed generation from these, solar, wind, and wave/tide energy.

4. Mandate a DOE program to develop a standard EV battery format, so that they can be rapidly switched out at charging stations. (Imagine if we had done this for inkjet cartridges?)

5. Develop a National 12-volt DC home illumination electrical wiring code. Solar panels generate DC electricity, the cheapest batteries out there are 12-volt auto batteries. Rooftop solar could simply charge a small bank of batteries. LEDs run on 12VDC (right now they are loaded with A/D converters, drivers, etc.) Houses and business buildings would be immune to blackouts from utility power outages. You could have 12VDC USB outlets to power phones, computers, clocks. No more inverters or selling back energy or any of that baloney.

6. Create a 50-year plan for national infrastructure and energy policy. Modified only by a 2/3 majority vote, House and Senate. No presidential veto. In other words, stick to it.

» on 09.13.12 @ 08:01 PM

Ok, now we are getting somewhere. I agree that carbon fuel stocks are limited and that burning through them all would be a disaster without the new paradigm up and running. Unfortunately, if we don’t make enough wealth in our economy in manufacturing and agriculture the wealth to build that new paradigm will not be there, hence extraction. However, anyone looking at China’s model will see that their wealth growth is almost all in manufacturing. That is an alternative for us, make it here and make enough to sell surplus and then our energy can be imported with little impact on the overall economy and sparing our own carbon stocks.

As for your battery idea it has merit but only if they can rapidly and cheaply increase energy density, which may be many decades out yet and far beyond our carbon fuel supply limits. Fuel cells may be the answer as solar roof top could produce the hydrogen during the day for electrical production at night. Keep in mind too that solar PV on industrial plants produces the peak output at industries peak demand, a win/win for industry as it requires little additional infrastructure to save a lot. Biggest problem right now is cost.

Unfortunately for transportation, carbon fuel is going to be very hard to beat. All life on earth uses carbon based fuel for transportation or mobility simply because it has tremendous energy density. Planes won’t fly on batteries or fuel cells, cars only very expensively. We must have carbon fuel for transportation and the way to get it is to either stop using it everywhere else or make it ourselves. That is why I push geothermal.

My ultimate goal is more cheaper so that the bottom end of our socioeconomic ladder gets the benefit. World wide the greatest beneficiary of cheap energy has been the world’s poor and they are the first to hurt when costs go up.

BTW – I agree we need a policy and we need to stick to it. It worked for Ike and his highways and JFK’s putting us on the Moon. We need to get that national sense of urgency back.

Anyway it’s good to see you throwing ideas out there. We need al lot more and we need to debate them outside of our petty partisan differences. I hope others will chime in.

» on 09.13.12 @ 08:14 PM

If Romney had any balls he would be stepping all over them. Now that he’s alienated himself from himself, he doesn’t seem to know what not to say or when not to say it.

Too bad he’s gonna flush so many hundreds of millions between now and 11/6. So much waste so late in life.

Well, at least the campaign stripped the aura off “Lyin’” Paul Ryan.

» on 09.14.12 @ 03:05 AM

AN50, battery density won’t matter if your battery swap out stations are at gas stations. 50 -100 miles, then you back up to an automated swap/charge system. It would probably take less than 60 seconds, and could charge your card by rfid.

And rooftop solar could charge a fairly large bank, say 5 to 7 auto-type batteries or more pretty quickly. If the household illumination was all LED, w/o A/D converters and drivers, you’d be pulling about 1/10th the power for lights. Even if it was dark for a week, that bank of batteries could keep the house lit comfortably. Under normal solar, you’d never need to bring in another Watt from outside your property, not for lighting or any other 12VDC draw at least. Conventional car battery density is already adequate.

Keeping your own solar power would mean much less loss to inverter and converter inefficiency, and probably fewer panels.

High speed rail only needs electricity. A triple rail, with local on one track, express burg-to-burg on the second, and high-speed city-to-city on the third would cut the need for domestic air travel by probably 60-70%. Power the rails with electricity generated at micro-nukes along the right-of-way.

That leaves shipping and a much-reduced air travel requirement. Hydrogen will be available as a fuel sooner than you think, and that could displace bunker and jet fuel.

All these things need to be pushed along, but most people won’t want to do that until gas gets so expensive that the economy is suffering. Again.

» on 09.17.12 @ 02:03 PM

When it comes to transportation energy density is everything. Your ideas have merit, it’s just costly. If we truly want to “spread the wealth around” making energy more abundant and cheaper is the fastest and best way to do it. If however you truly want to make modern transportation a toy of the very rich and eliminate the middle class, expensive energy at very low density storage is the best way to go.

I am not knocking the efforts of those engaged in alternatives; we need them and better sooner rather than later. I am also a big fan of electric motors and hybrid technology to scavenge as much braking energy as possible. My issue is costs and storage. If someone came up with a battery that had the energy density of jet fuel and could be charged very rapidly and cheaply I would be all over it.

Unfortunately we are driving the technology for the wrong reasons. Rather than looking for alternatives to carbon fuel we should be looking for ways to make more and cheaper. AGW has everyone looking at the problem ass backwards. It’s not dumping of CO2 that’s the problem its CO2 uptake. Using atmospheric CO2 as a source of carbon to make hydrocarbon fuel is the answer. Follow what nature is already doing and mimic the carbon cycle. The only difference is that we need to accelerate the conversion and we don’t have enough time or solar input to do the job. That’s where massive geothermal comes in. Giant conversion plants using earth’s internal heat to convert CO2 and water into high energy density carbon fuel. When the fuel is burned it releases CO2 and water vapor, just like we do.

The answer to our energy problems and the AGW problem is all around us. We just need to stop being such intellectual narcissists and accept that nature is smarter than we are and do as she does. And if our goal is to end poverty and make life more equitable, cheaper energy is the way to do it.

» on 09.17.12 @ 05:18 PM

Nothing I suggested was elitist. Things cost money to develop, but once in place, they pay huge dividends. This is why the government is important - private investment has no skin in mass transportation.

As for cost, how do you know it will be cheaper to make hydrocarbon fuel than hydrogen? Are you suggesting solar stills for ethanol?

» on 09.17.12 @ 07:28 PM

Yes I agree with you on the government investment, but that operates best when the economy as a whole is a net producer and not in debt as we are now. We did the Apollo program on an economy that produced a surplus the end result was not only a historic trip to the moon and our boot prints there but our entire high tech revolution spawned on its back. That is why I keep pushing hydrocarbon extraction now, just to prime the economic pump with a surplus of wealth. Pay down debt, start making more than you consume then go after the new paradigm. Right now we have everything ass backwards.

Where we differ is mass transit. As much as I am in favor of dense urban centers with high density mass transit I don’t want that as a substitute for low density suburbs or private motor transportation, the greatest liberator of the middleclass and poor. Too many people see this as a conservation tool. Bull Crap, it’s very regressive for the poor and middle classes.

As for hydrogen it’s not really a cost matter but safety. Hydrogen is extremely reactive. Smash a cylinder of liquid hydrogen and you blow a city block a part, smash a gasoline tank and you have a fire, possibly, but nothing like a hydrogen explosion. I was a big promoter of hydrogen fuel back in my hippy environmental activist days, but an education in physics and engineering taught me a valuable lesson in practical application.

Again, if they invent a great battery or a way to store hydrogen safely (which is hydrocarbons, actually) then I am all for it.

Actually when you think about it the hydrogen cycle tries to get the energy transfer without carbon involved. Its more direct but enormously dangerous. Add a carbon atom to “trap” the hydrogen and viola! You still have CO2 to deal with but that is what trees are good for!

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