When the two major party presidential candidates deliver competing addresses at the same time in the same battleground state, you know the campaign is really heating up. Last week, Mitt Romney and Barack Obama turned up the temperature with much-hyped dueling economic speeches in Cincinnati and Cleveland, Ohio, respectively.
If Thursday’s speeches are any guide, the two campaigns intend to use energy policy as an example of their competing visions for America’s future, rather than an area in which common ground might be found and progress achieved.
Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney’s speech centered on the thesis that the President’s policies have hindered job creation throughout the economy. The energy sector was one example, though not a headliner for his speech. Romney touched on coal, gas and oil, saying that the President has made it harder to get these fuels out of the ground. He conveniently ignored the data showing increasing production of oil and gas since Obama’s been in office. Romney also so badly wants the Keystone XL pipeline that he promised to permit it on his first day in office and to build it himself if he had to. (While the entertainment value of seeing Mitt Romney single-handedly build an oil pipeline might ease some of the staunch opposition, it would – alas – not address all substantive concerns about the project). Absent from the discussion was any mention of the clean energy.
In contrast, President Obama declared from the beginning that he sees energy as a path toward creating “strong, sustained growth” and generating “good, middle-class jobs.” He devoted a chunk of the speech to his specific energy agenda – mentioning natural gas, nuclear, and coal before chiming in with renewable energy, electric cars and energy efficiency, an “all of the above” approach that disappointingly put clean energy at the bottom. But what was most notable was the way that he wove the need for a sane and modern energy policy throughout the speech. Listening to Obama, you’d never realize that energy has become such a divisive, ideological, litmus-test of an issue.
Perhaps, that is the silver lining of the dueling speeches. Energy policy doesn’t have to be divisive. A majority of Americans are united in their support for clean energy and reduced pollution. Candidates shouldn’t use energy policy as a weapon to score political points. Instead of creating and enlarging gaps among us, politicians can and should try to find common ground and begin making progress on an issue that everyone agrees is important.