Chart: How Obama And Romney Compare On Energy Issues


Written by Rebecca Leber

Mitt Romney’s campaign has benefited from Big Oil and Big Coal’s backing, which have poured more than $16 million into ads attacking President Barack Obama’s energy policies. As a favor, Romney says he plans to open public lands and water to drilling while undoing safety and environmental protections.

Below, we take a side-by-side look at Obama and Romney’s policies and their divisions on fossil fuels, clean energy, public health, and pollution. Beneath the chart is a more detailed comparison of the candidates’ energy proposals and rhetoric.

Next page: details…

Oil and gas production


  • Oil production reached its highest level in eight years last year. Between oil and gas drilling rigs, the United States now has more rigs at work than the rest of the world combined. Imports fell to lowest level in 16 years, under 50 percent of oil consumption. [White House, 3/12/12]
  • Raised safety standards for drilling in the Gulf of Mexico following the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, strengthening well design, testing, control equipment and workplace safety. The region was not hurt economically by a temporary moratorium, which has the same unemployment as two years ago and had rising personal income in 2011. [White House,3/30/12, NOLA, 4/15/12]
  • Crude oil production from federal lands and waters was higher in 2011 than any of the last three years of the Bush Administration. [Energy Information Administration, 3/14/12]


  • Opens up the Florida portion of the Gulf of Mexico to new drilling, the Atlantic and Pacific Outer Continental Shelves, public lands, and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Accelerates drilling permits. [, 2011]
  • Called the temporary moratorium on drilling in the Gulf following the Deepwater Horizon disaster “illegal.” [CBS News,3/9/12]

Big Oil Subsidies


  • Calls on Congress to end oil subsidies and to double down on clean energy investments. [White House, 3/28/2012]
  • Pledged to cut subsidies for oil, coal, and natural gas internationally, among G20 nations. [Economist,10/1/09


  • Romney’s plan cuts the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent, but does not make specific mention of oil and gas loopholes which let oil companies pay much lower effective federal rates. [Mitt, 2011]
  • Romney has blasted Obama for wanting to close these loopholes for the industry, saying the president is increasing taxes. [, 3/4/12]
  • Asked directly in an interview about whether he is for or against subsidizing Big Oil, Romney responded: “I’m not sure precisely what big tax breaks we’re talking about.” [Fox News, 4/3/2012]
  • Romney supports the House Republican budget, which preserves the $40 billion in subsidies for the oil and gas industry. [Center for American Progress, 3/20/12]

Gas Prices


  • “There’s no silver bullet. Anybody who tells you otherwise isn’t really looking for a solution; they’re trying to ride the political wave of the moment.” [LA Times, 3/16/12]
  • Domestic oil production is at its highest level in eight years, but drilling has no correlation to gas prices, the Associated Press confirms. [AP, 3/22/12]
  • Rein in market oil speculators with more funding for market oversight and CFTC, increased penalties for illegal activity. Dodd-Frank financial reform includes rules on speculation [CNN, 4/17/12; Media Matters, 4/18/12]


  • “He’s now decided that gasoline prices should come down. The gas hike trio has been going in the other direction. Time for them to go, probably hand in their resignations if he’s really serious about that.” [Boston Globe, 3/19/12]
  • Calls to repeal Dodd Frank and opposes reining in Wall Street speculators, calling Obama’s move “gimmickry” [, 4/17/12]

Energy Efficiency


  • Finalizing new modern standards requiring cars and light-duty trucks to achieve an average fuel economy rating of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025 — double the rate in 2010. These savings will cut U.S. oil use by 2.2 million barrels per day by 2025—a move that will save drivers $8,000 per vehicle due to fewer gasoline purchases compared to a 2010 car. [White House, 3/12/12]
  • Began the Better Buildings Initiative, which makes commercial facilities 20 percent more efficient by 2020. [NYT, 12/3/11]
  • Directed federal agencies to make $2 billion worth of energy efficiency upgrades in two years. [NYT,12/3/11]


  • Against raising standards for energy-efficient lighting, which was coauthored by Republicans and signed into law by President George W. Bush. “The government would have banned Thomas Edison’s light bulb,” Romney said. “Oh yeah, Obama’s regulators actually did.” [Huffington Post, 3/19/12]
  • Supports the House GOP Ryan budget, which would cut investments in energy efficiency by 20 percent in 2013. [, 3/19/12]

Public lands


  • Announced he would “allow the development of clean energy on enough public land to power 3 million homes.” [1/24/12]
  • Signed a sweeping public lands bill in 2009 that designated two million acres of wilderness and three national parks. [AP,3/31/09]
  • Created a national monument of a Civil War-era Fort Monroe, Virginia, embracing the 1906 Antiquities Act. [National Trust For Historic Preservation, 11/1/11]


  • Romney said “I haven’t studied […] what the purpose is of” public lands. But he finds it unacceptable when conservation is “designed to satisfy, let’s say, the most extreme environmentalists, from keeping a population from developing their coal, their gold, their other resources for the benefit of the state.” [McClatchy, 2/16/12]
  • Fully embraced the House Republican budget from Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), calling it “bold and brilliant.” It sells off 3.3 millions of acres of national parks and public lands. [ThinkProgress, 3/21/12]

Global Warming


  • “I know that there are those who disagree with the overwhelming scientific evidence on climate change. But here’s the thing — even if you doubt the evidence, providing incentives for energy-efficiency and clean energy are the right thing to do for our future -– because the nation that leads the clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the global economy.” [White House, 1/27/10]
  • State Department is leading a group of countries in a program that cuts global warming pollutants like soot, methane and hydrofluorocarbons. [NYT, 2/16/2012]
  • Issued the first ever carbon pollution rules for power plants, affecting new coal-fired power plants. [NPR, 3/27/12]


  • Doesn’t believe carbon pollution is a threat, reversing his stance as governor: “I don’t think carbon is a pollutant in the sense of harming our bodies.” [Politico, 7/18/11]
  • 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.” [CBS, 10/28/2011]
  • Says the Clean Air Act doesn’t apply to carbon emissions: “My view is that the EPA in getting into carbon and regulating carbon has gone beyond the original intent of that legislation, and I would not take it there,” [Politico, 7/18/11]

Air Pollution From Power Plants


  • Unveiled historic rules that limit harmful mercury pollution from coal-fired power plants. The initiative prevents 11,000 premature deaths and 4,700 heart attacks a year, and 130,000 cases of childhood asthma symptoms [EPA, 12/21/11]


  • ‘Aggressively” develop all our coal sources. “Coal is America’s most abundant energy source. We have reserves that—at current rates of uses—will last for the next 200 years of electricity production in an industry that directly employs perhaps 200,000 workers. [NYT, 4/3/12]
  • Against new EPA regulations of harmful mercury and air pollutants from coal: “I think the EPA has gotten completely out of control for a very simple reason. It is a tool in the hands of the president to crush the private enterprise system, to crush our ability to have energy, whether it’s oil, gas, coal, nuclear.” [The Hill, 12/5/11]

Fuel efficient cars


  • New modern standards require cars and some trucks to achieve an average 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. This cuts U.S. oil consumption by 2.2 million barrels of oil per day by 2025, saving Americans $1.7 trillion and cuts carbon pollution. [White House, 11/17/11]
  • Set a goal that by 2015 there would be 1 million electric vehicles on the road. [White House, 3/12/12]


  • Disparaged the Chevrolet Volt as “an idea whose time has not come” and “I’m not sure America was ready for the Chevy Volt.” [Michigan Live, 12/23/11, MSNBC 4/5/12]
  • Against fuel efficiency standards, calling it “disadvantageous for domestic manufacturers.” [WJR Radio, 2/23/12]
  • Advocates ending federal loan program helping companies develop and produce efficient cars. [Orange Country Register, 10/24/11]

Clean energy


  • “I will not walk away from the promise of clean energy. I will not cede the wind or solar or battery industry to China or Germany because we refuse to make the same commitment here.” [State of the Union, 1/24/12]
  • Transforming the Pentagon into a clean energy operation, reducing the military’s dependence on fossil fuels that cost the Pentagon up to $20 billion annually. Investing in hybrid batteries. [National Journal, 4/11/12]


  • “You can’t drive a car with a windmill on it.” [ThinkProgress,3/6/2012]
  • Endorses the Ryan House Republican budget, which gives a 60 percent funding increase to coal, oil, and natural gas, while it decreases funding for research on vehicle batteries and solar projects, and loans for fuel-efficient cars. [Politico, 4/17/12]
  • Against the government promoting clean energy, though supports tax loopholes for oil: “Let’s pretend for a moment that [Solyndra] didn’t go bankrupt. Let’s just pretend it was successful … When he picks one [business] that the government gets behind with $500 million, the investments in all the others disappear, because no one wants to compete with the government.” [The Hill, 12/20/11]

Green Jobs


  • Historic level of investment in clean energy, a sector now with 3.1 million Americans employed. In 2008, Obama promised to create 5 million green jobs. [AP, 3/22/12]


  • Repeatedly called green jobs fake, for example calling them “illusory” in an op-ed. “[Obama] keeps talking about green jobs, where are they?” [OC Register, 10/11, League of Conservation Voters, 9/15/11]
  • Against renewable energy production credits, which risks the end of 37,000 jobs, according to a figure from Navigant Consulting [Chicago Tribune, 2/17/12]

This post was originally published by Climate Progress.


Related Stories:

US Senate Votes to Continue Oil Subsidies

Obama Wants to Drill in Alaska

Renewable Energy: A Strategy for Long-Term Survival


AP Photo/Odessa American, Mark Sterkel


William C
William C4 months ago

Thank you.

Noreen Niamath
Noreen Niamath5 years ago

Sometimes I thing that politicians just agree to disagree. They may support an idea in private but publicly they disagree because that is going to get them the vote....that is stupid and dishonest. Soon they become such puppets that they are no longer sure what they believe in.

Grace Adams
Grace Adams5 years ago

How about bribing Exxon Mobil to DEVELOP and SELL as a commercial product bio-diesel from algae. Algae multiply like rabbits. Raising algae for bio-diesel and using it as a substitute for petroleum diesel should be net zero on carbon emissions over the course of the year.

paul h.
paul h5 years ago

Unravel this and B & R and your lack of energy will be history

Nancy L.
Nancy L5 years ago

Wow, we need oil resources in this company developed and used!

David Nuttle
Past Member 5 years ago

Obama seldom delivers on his promises, and tends to say what he thinks the public wants to hear. Romney often says what he thinks wealthy special interests want to hear to gain their contributions. My hope and belief is that Romney will not be stupid enough to do what he is saying if he get elected President. If Obama is elected again, his priority will be on development of an American socialist state ... and he will actually do little to help resolve energy issues.

Krystal M.
Krystal M5 years ago

I'm not impressed by either of them.

J.L. A.
j A5 years ago

nice, clear presentation of policy differences

Arild Warud

Mint doesn't get it.

Mary Driver
Mary Driver5 years ago