WASHINGTON – Jim Talent, the former US senator from Missouri, argues for looser restrictions on domestic energy production in one of several commentaries included as part of the economic plan GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney unveiled this week.
“America has hundreds of years of coal reserves,’’ writes Talent, a Republican and key Romney economic advisor, blaming government regulation for hampering domestic coal mining and other energy production.
“The problem is not that America does not have energy. The problem is that our government – alone among the governments of the world – will not allow its own people to recover the energy that they possess.’’
What the former Missouri senator’s essay does not mention is that the Washington lobbying and communications firm he leads as co-chairman, Mercury Public Affairs, counts among its clients Peabody Energy, a St. Louis-based company that is one the largest coal producers in the world.
Peabody Energy has paid Talent’s firm an average of $125,000 every year for the past five years to help represent its interests in Washington. The energy company also retains other firms, spending an average of $2 million each year on lobbying, records show.
The Mercury website does not indicate what lobbyists or partners work directly on the Peabody account, so the level of Talent’s involvement with the firm could not be determined today.
A message seeking comment from Romney was not returned today. A woman who answered the telephone at Talent’s firm, Mercury, said he was unavailable. A message left for him seeking comment was not returned. A message left at The Heritage Foundation, where Talent is a senior fellow, also was not returned.
A spokeswoman for Peabody Energy declined to comment. The company sold 244 million tons of coal and made $6 billion in revenues in 2009, according to a company press release posted online, which said Peabody fuels 10 percent of U.S. power and 2 percent of worldwide electricity.
Talent isn’t the only member of Romney’s economic advisory team with lobbying interests. Romney adviser Vin Weber, a former congressman from Minnesota, is managing partner of Clark Weinstock, one of Washington’s most influential lobbying firms.
Romney’s energy policy includes streamlining and fast-tracking approval processes, amending the Clean Air Act to exclude regulation of carbon, and opening the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge for oil production.
“Mitt Romney has thoroughly reviewed all the ways that our government stops us from getting energy: moratoriums, ‘permitoriums,’ bureaucratic hostility, uncertainty about old regulations, uncertainty about new regulations – much of it with the intention, and all of it with the effect, of making the recovery of energy so expensive and so uncertain that people look for energy in other countries and not here,” Talent writes in Romney’s economic plan.