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Fletcher in the News

Charles Ebinger (F71, F72, F81) on Mitt Romney's Energy Policy

Romney Faults Obama on Energy Costs, but Has Cited Benefits of Rising Prices

For several weeks, Mitt Romney has seized on the rising cost of gasoline to attack President Obama and his environmental aides for what Mr. Romney calls their misguided desire to see higher energy prices.

In an online town-hall-style meeting last week, Mr. Romney accused Mr. Obama of having a presidential policy intended to “see energy prices rise,” and he mocked the president for once saying that he would like gasoline prices to “change gradually.”

“They have put in place policies that are designed to reduce our production of fossil-based fuels and drive up the cost of energy and therefore encourage people to move towards wind and solar which are of course much higher cost,” Mr. Romney said in the Google+ hangout. …

…“If the tax on gasoline were higher, people would alter their behavior to drive less. They would be more likely to take public transportation, use car pools or live closer to work,” Mr. Mankiw, a contributor to the Economic View column, wrote in The New York Times.

Charles Ebinger, the director of the energy security initiative at the Brookings Institution, said Mr. Romney’s openness to the benefits of higher energy prices was similar to the approach that Mr. Obama’s advisers had espoused for years.

“I think that’s absolutely accurate in terms of what the administration has over time argued,” Mr. Ebinger said. “They always argued that it was a gradual increase that was needed. I think it is the same argument.”

Mr. Romney’s aides deny that, saying that Mr. Romney is clear in the book that the economic costs of policies like higher gas taxes are — on balance — greater than the benefits. Despite praising a “tax swap” that would increase gas taxes and lower payroll taxes, for example, he concludes in the book that “a great deal of work remains to be done if it is to become a viable option.”

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