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Romney offers plan to reduce oil dependency

Says autonomy can be achieved by 2020

Candidate Mitt Romney unveiled his energy plan in Hobbs, N.M., on Thursday.

Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images

Candidate Mitt Romney unveiled his energy plan in Hobbs, N.M., on Thursday.

HOBBS, N.M. — Mitt Romney unveiled an energy plan Thursday that he said would make North America energy independent by 2020, at what would be the end of his second term as president.

His plan would allow states more control over the development of energy resources on federal lands within their borders and would aggressively expand offshore oil and gas drilling — including along the coasts of Virginia and the Carolinas — as part of a broader effort to reach energy independence.

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‘‘This is not some pie-in-the-sky kind of thing,’’ Romney said, speaking at a trucking facility. ‘‘This is a real, achievable objective.’’

Using a bar chart behind him to explain his plan, Romney said the first bar represented how much oil North America currently produces — about 15 million barrels per day — which means that the United States still imports about one-third of the energy it uses.

The second bar, he said, represented the 2 million barrels a day the country produces from offshore drilling. Other bars were devoted to so-called tight oil — oil produced from fracking technology, natural gas liquids, biofuels, the oil sands of Canada, and Mexico. His plan, he explained, would take advantage of these other resources and thus help boost energy production in North America.

“The net net of all this, as you can see, is by 2020, we’re able to produce somewhere between 28 million barrels per day of oil and we won’t need to buy any oil from the Middle East or Venezuela or anywhere else where we don’t want to,’’ Romney said.

Romney’s proposal, complete with a 21-page white paper, includes granting states more regulatory power over drilling on federal lands, revitalizing the nuclear power industry, and approving the Keystone XL pipeline to carry more Canadian oil to refineries in the United States.

His plan is bound to be contentious after the disastrous BP oil well blowout in 2010, which leaked millions of barrels of oil in the Gulf of Mexico and killed 11 workers. The proposal may win votes in Virginia, where drilling would bring jobs and state revenues, but would be controversial in Florida, where offshore drilling has long been viewed as a threat to tourism.

Romney campaign officials emphasized the importance of opening more oil and gas drilling on federal lands.

‘’What Governor Romney is proposing is that state governments, which already control the development of energy resources on their own and private lands within their borders, would also control the development of energy resources on federal lands within their borders,’’ said Oren Cass, the campaign’s domestic policy director, in a conference call with reporters Wednesday.

On Thursday, Romney said that ‘‘on federal lands the permitting process to actually drill and get oil or gas is extraordinarily slow.’’

‘‘Now interestingly on state lands, and private lands, state regulators have streamlined their permitting process, their evaluation, their environmental process, safety processes,’’ he said. ‘‘They found a way, because we compete with one another. They found a way to do a job in a more efficient way.’’

He cited North Dakota, where the permitting process takes 10 days, and Colorado, where it takes 27 days, as examples of states handling the process more efficiently.

The proposal will surely be controversial among environmentalists hoping to preserve lands such as desert stretches of New Mexico where threatened species roam. A campaign document, however, said the proposal would exclude ‘‘lands specially designated off-limits,’’ which presumably means national parks.

The Obama campaign released a statement from Federico Pena, a secretary of energy in the Clinton administration, criticizing Romney’s emphasis on drilling. ‘‘We will never reach energy independence by turning our backs on home-grown renewable energy and better auto mileage,’’ Pena said.

Romney has raised considerable money from donors with ties to the oil industry. Over the past two days, he pulled in nearly $10 million in oil money: $6 million to $7 million Tuesday from two fund-raisers in Texas (in Houston and Midland) and $2 million at a fund-raiser Wednesday in Little Rock, Ark.

Claiborne P. Deming, who introduced Romney at the Arkansas event and is a finance cochairman in the state, is chairman of Murphy Oil, a global gas and oil company.

Nearly two-thirds of federal lands are currently off-limits to drilling and mining, and leasing has slowed in recent years. Oil production has been declining on federal lands, while booming on private lands as well as offshore.

The Obama administration has expanded offshore oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska but at least temporarily barred development along the east and west coasts. The administration appears to be on the verge of giving final approval to Shell Oil to drill in the Alaskan Arctic for the first time in two decades, but its decision to enact a one-year moratorium on gulf drilling after the BP spill angered the oil industry.

Before the BP disaster, oil production in the Gulf was 1.75 million barrels a day, and it is now down to roughly 1.5 million barrels a day, 700,000 barrels below what had been projected for 2012. Still, production is rapidly ramping up again and overall domestic oil production is up 10 percent this year in a continuation of a three-year trend.

Many energy specialists say expanded offshore drilling could be an important step toward energy independence, but they still debate how much oil there is along the coasts.

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