Obama, Romney positions on energy future

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President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney have vastly different strategies on how to regulate the newfound U.S. oil and natural gas bounty and the development of alternative energy sources.

Ahead of Tuesday night's debate, advanced car battery maker A123 Systems filed for bankruptcy protection. The company was awarded a $249 million grant through Obama's 2009 stimulus program.

Romney's campaign quickly seized on the bankruptcy, saying it was another failure of Obama's "disastrous" energy policy.

The Obama administration defended its investment in advanced battery companies, pointing out that more than 30 new or retooled plants are operating thanks to the funding.

The following is a rundown of how Obama and Romney stand on the top energy issues ahead of the November 6 presidential election:

CLEAN ENERGY

Romney: Opposes government spending on clean energy companies, but calls for research and development to promote energy innovation.

Uses failure of government-backed solar company Solyndra LLC to illustrate argument against government trying to pick winners in the energy sector. In his first debate with Obama, he said about half of the clean energy companies in the $90 billion stimulus program went bankrupt, a claim that was not accurate.

Of the $90 billion in the stimulus that was scheduled to go to clean energy and efficiency programs, at least $813 million went to companies that have now gone bankrupt.

Opposes renewal of production tax credit, worth about $1 billion a year to wind power producers.

Obama: Included $90 billion in 2009 economic stimulus package for energy projects including solar and wind power, energy efficiency, high speed rail and bolstering the electric grid.

Defends the $16 billion in loan guarantees for 26 clean energy projects as necessary given lack of private financing and competition from China.

Supports renewal of the 20-year-old production tax credit for wind power.

ENERGY INDEPENDENCE

Romney: Vowed to make North America energy independent by 2020 by expanding oil and gas drilling, allowing more state oversight of energy projects, streamlining regulations and working with Canada and Mexico. Would also approve the Keystone XL pipeline.

Opposes Obama's new fuel efficiency standards for vehicles as "extreme."

Obama: Wants to cut U.S. oil imports in half by 2020 by supporting more production of fossil fuels. His "all-of-the-above" energy strategy promotes oil drilling and includes incentives for nuclear as well as wind and solar power.

Finalized fuel efficiency rules to cut U.S. oil use by more than 2 million barrels a day by 2025.

OIL AND GAS DRILLING

Romney: Supports expanding offshore drilling beyond Obama's five-year plan. Would open areas off the coast of Virginia and the Carolinas to oil and gas development.

Would leave oversight of onshore energy development, including shale oil and gas, to state governments.

Obama: Highlights that U.S. oil production has risen every year he has been in office, with output hitting a 17-year high in early October. But most of the gains have come on private lands, over which Obama has little control.

Supports fracking for natural gas, but the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under his administration has also issued some of the first regulations on the industry.

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY

Romney: Often blasts the EPA on the campaign trail, arguing that "excessive" environmental regulation has hampered U.S. economic growth.

Emphasizes his support for coal. Vows to eliminate "anti-carbon" regulations and ensure the EPA considers the costs of regulations it imposes. Would also give energy companies more time to comply with government regulations.

Obama: After the climate bill died in the Senate in 2010, his EPA proposed the first-ever rules to limit greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. Climate rules on oil refineries have been delayed.

The EPA also issued rules on toxic emissions from coal plants, many of which were in the making before Obama became president, and some of which face court challenges. Some older coal plants have been pushed to close, partly because of cost of upgrades required in the regulations, but also because of record low prices for natural gas.

KEYSTONE XL

Romney: Promised to approve the Canada-to-Texas oil pipeline on the first day of his administration to create jobs and help reduce U.S. oil imports from the Middle East and Venezuela.

Wants to establish new "fast-track" regulatory approval processes for other cross-border pipelines.

Obama: Delayed the Keystone XL pipeline citing environmental concerns in Nebraska. Backed the building of the pipeline's southern section.

Has not said whether he will eventually approve the entire project after the election. Government continues to study environmental risks including spills and carbon emissions from oil sands.



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