Obama: Romney's 'Energy Independence' an Empty Promise, Except to Big Oil

Democrats label push for more drilling at the expense of newer energy sources a proven failure.

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The Obama administration portrayed Mitt Romney's recently unveiled plan for American energy independence by 2020 as anything but new in a call with reporters Thursday afternoon, calling Romney's latest speech in New Mexico pushing for further exploration and development of America's oil and gas resources an old party trick.

"His speech today was devoid of any policy specifics or concrete steps [and] another much-hyped policy speech in which [he] is yet again long on empty rhetoric," said Stephanie Cutter, Obama's deputy campaign manager. "It's taking us back to failed energy policies of the past and subjecting consumers to market fluctuations and higher costs."

Cutter didn't fail to mention a recent fundraiser for Romney hosted by an oil industry CEO, evidence, according to Cutter, that Romney is more interested in doing the bidding of big oil than doing what's right for Americans.

"Romney doubled down on a bunch of energy policies that would increase our dependence on domestic and foreign oil," she added. "The plan he put on the table is really just rubber stamping oil companies' drilling plans without considering national or environmental [issues]."

The campaign also highlighted that oil and natural gas production has reach record highs under President Obama's watch, but failed to address the argument that the boom is thanks to efforts on private, not public, lands.

Perhaps the most specific of the Obama campaign's critiques of Romney's plan was the former governor's suggestion to let states control resource development on federal lands within their borders. While Romney billed the idea as a move to remove red tape and expand development of public lands faster, Obama advisers said just the reverse could happen. Instead of just one regulating body, energy companies could face dealing with 50 separate ones.

"I cannot imagine a world of 50 different kinds of rules and regulations for the industry—it would drive the industry crazy," said Federico Pena, former secretary of energy and national Obama campaign co-chair. "From an efficiency perspective, I don't think it's a workable idea."

Most of all, the Obama campaign criticized Romney's emphasis on oil and gas development while neglecting newer energy technologies such as wind, solar, and biofuels. Taking the country in that direction would only increase the nation's dependence on oil—foreign or not.

"Any investor, as Romney should know, understands you can't rely on one or two fuels," Pena said. "You have to diversify your investment and strategies."

Increased focus on fossil fuels together with Romney's lukewarm stance on Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency standards—the standards that set how fuel efficient cars must be—just doesn't mesh with his campaign's claim of energy independence by 2020, the Obama campaign said.

"They are great goals but the facts don't add up," Cutter said.

Meg Handley is a reporter for U.S. News & World Report. You can reach her at mhandley@usnews.com and follow her on Twitter at @mmhandley.