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Where Do the Presidential Candidates Stand on Energy Efficiency?

Aug 20, 2012

We know that what a political candidate says during a campaign often differs from what the eventual office-holder does. We also know that candidates choose their words carefully to give themselves wiggle room for modifications in course.

So we listen for innuendo and subtleties when candidates talk about our special interests. What kind of qualifying language do they use? Are they truly against X, Y and Z, or only under special circumstances?

Below are some quotes on energy efficiency from President Barack Obama and Republican front-runner Mitt Romney. I’ll start with Romney since his stand is less clear, at least to me. Romney pushed a green agenda while Governor of Massachusetts, but recently attacked renewable energy as “imaginary.” He doesn’t, however, appear to direct the same criticism at energy efficiency.

Romney on energy efficiency

“I also want to see us become more energy efficient. I’m told that we use almost twice as much energy per person as does a European, and more like three times as much as does a Japanese citizen. We could do a lot better. I’d like to see our vehicles, and our homes, and our systems of insulation and so forth become far more efficient. I believe that we have a role in trying to encourage that to happen.”Think Progress, June 6, 2011 (See the video here.)

When he was governor of Massachusetts, Romney proposed a four step energy plan, which began with increasing energy efficiency for homes, businesses, state buildings, and vehicles.

In contrast, Romney pushes an agenda of energy production, not savings, on his campaign website. He criticizes Obama’s green energy programs, and calls for alternative energy funding to be used on basic research. The energy issues page does not mention energy efficiency or conservation.

Obama on energy efficiency

“The easiest way to save money is to waste less energy,” – Obama, January 24, 2012, State of the Union Address.

Obama has been unabashedly pro-energy efficiency. As I reported in February, Obama’s 2013 budget won accolades from energy efficiency advocates because it called for about $1.2 billion in spending for energy efficiency.

In addition, Obama’s Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future pushes energy efficiency across all sectors: buildings, homes, factories, vehicles, and calls for export of U.S. energy efficiency technologies.

Still, in the “Energy and Environment” section of his campaign website, energy production takes up most of the ink — wind, solar, oil and clean coal — as part of his “all of the above strategy.” The site includes a section on the fuel economy standards Obama negotiated with car manufacturers.

In Congress, Republicans and Democrats have both pushed energy efficiency legislation. It remains to be seen if the resource can remain free of the political fray in this election, where candidates seem determined to disagree on everything. If you have found other quotes by the candidates on energy efficiency, please post them in the comments here. Let’s keep watching what’s said.

 Elisa Wood is a long-time energy writer. Subscribe to her free Energy Efficiency Markets newsletter at

Lead ikage: Democratic and republican symbols via Shutterstock

The information and views expressed in this blog post are solely those of the author and not necessarily those of or the companies that advertise on this Web site and other publications. This blog was posted directly by the author and was not reviewed for accuracy, spelling or grammar.

Elisa Wood is a long-time energy writer whose work appears in many of the industry's top magazines and newsletters, among them Renewable Energy World and Platts. She serves as chief editor of Her work has been picked up by the New York Times, Reuters, the Wall Street ...


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