Mitt Romney revives focus on energy plan

Mitt Romney said energy was his number one objective

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has promoted an energy plan he says will create three million jobs and achieve energy independence by 2020.

He is trying to focus on the economy, after the firestorm caused this week by a fellow Republican's comments on rape.

Mr Romney said his plan would enable more drilling in Virginia and North Carolina waters - two politically important states.

The Obama campaign is also returning to economic issues on the campaign trail.

In a video released on Thursday, former President Bill Clinton says in a face-to-face message to the viewer that there is a "clear choice" over which candidate can address the nation's unemployment.

'We need to keep going with his [Mr Obama's] plan," Mr Clinton says.

Energy independence?

The ad is due to air in eight key states, ahead of November's elections.

Mr Romney delivered his remarks in the western state of New Mexico on Thursday, a day after attending fundraisers in Arkansas.

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This is a very fluid election, with not a great deal of enthusiasm for either candidate. This time the theatre of the conventions could really matter.”

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His aides say his energy plan would generate more than $1tn (£630bn) of revenue for federal, state and local governments.

The former Massachusetts governor also pledged to help wean the US off imported oil, by tapping newly accessible oil and gas reserves at home.

The elusive goal of energy independence is one almost every US president, including Barack Obama, has vowed to achieve.

Mr Romney's energy plan would:

  • open more areas for offshore drilling, particularly in the mid-Atlantic, where it is currently banned
  • boost domestic oil production, and approve the stalled Keystone XL pipeline project that would carry crude oil from Canada to Texas
  • give individual states the power to use federal lands (except off-limits areas) for all sorts of energy production

In a policy document, Mr Romney said: "States are far better able to develop, adopt and enforce regulations based on their unique resources, geology and local concerns."

It added that while it can take up to 307 days to process permits needed to drill on federal land, it takes just 10 days in North Dakota and 27 in Colorado.

Mr Romney has close ties to oil executives and is reported to have raised $7m from the industry through Texas fundraisers this week.

Under Mr Obama's energy plan, companies could begin seismic testing to find new resources in the Atlantic Ocean, and then apply for leases. No leases would be available until 2017.

Character trumps policy for older voters

Mr Romney's plan does not say much about wind energy - a renewable source that Mr Obama has encouraged in states such as Iowa and Colorado.

Speaking at a fundraiser in New York on Wednesday, Mr Obama said: "Oil production is up. Natural gas is up. But we're also doubling the energy that we get from wind and solar."

He added that, under his administration, US dependence on foreign oil went below 50% for the first time in 13 years.

The Democratic president's plan would also see incentives for companies with drilling leases to speed up recovery, more use of biofuels and natural gas, and more energy-efficient cars.

Mr Obama, seeking to boost his support among women, also told donors on Wednesday that a Republican congressman who caused uproar with remarks about rape had "somehow missed science class".

The Republican party have condemned Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin after his comments on Sunday that in cases of "legitimate rape" women's bodies could "shut down" to prevent pregnancy.

A new opinion poll has found that Mr Obama holds a six-point lead in the swing state of Ohio, but that the race has tightened in two other key states.

Mr Obama's lead in Florida has narrowed to three points in Florida and to two points in Wisconsin, according to the Quinnipiac University/CBS News/New York Times poll.

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