Opinion, Berkeley Blogs

From green governor to conservative candidate: The amazing transformation of Mitt Romney

By Dan Farber

“EPA New England applauds Governor Romney for his strong environmental leadership.” That quote from EPA’s regional director in 2004 shows the extent of Romney’s transformation in the past eight years. It’s no secret that Mitt Romney’s current views on many issues differ from his actions as Governor of Massachusetts.  Still, it’s a bit shocking to see just how radical the change has been.  Basically, on environmental issues, Romney has transformed himself from being a counterpart of Barack Obama to being a carbon copy of George W. Bush.

It’s enlightening to look in detail at Romney’s positions as governor versus his current positions.  It’s really hard to find any trace of Governor Romney in candidate Romney’s positions, as this table shows:

Climate Change (LA Times)

Proposed an ambitious climate action plan, helped negotiate a cap-and-trade agreement between Northeastern states, but ultimately withdrew because the scheme lacked a price ceiling.

Opposes cap-and-trade and EPA regulations of greenhouse gases


In demanding the closure of a high-polluting coal-fired plant, says: “I will not create jobs or hold jobs that kill people. And that plant, that plant kills people.” (NY Times)“Set tough standards requiring significant reductions of mercury emissions from power plants.” (here)

Favors increased coal production and reducing regulation of coal-related air pollution.Specifically attacks regulation of mercury from power plants.

Renewable Energy (Bloomberg)

“As governor, .  . . he promoted a green-energy fund backed by the state as a ‘major economic springboard,’ and oversaw an increase in support for renewable and energy-efficiency projects.”“Like Solyndra, some of the companies funded by the state [under Romney] have failed.”

Demands complete end to financial incentives for renewable energy, except funding for basic research. Says: “In place of real energy, Obama has focused on an imaginary world where government-subsidized windmills and solar panels could power the economy.”Denounces Solyndra support.

Coastal areas

Imposes tough new regulations to reduce oil spills and higher penalties for spills, says “we have a special obligation to our children and future generations to be active stewards in protecting our beaches, waters and coastline.”

Calls for massive expansion of off-shore drilling.

Air pollution

Romney “railed against the ‘Filthy Five,’ high-polluting power plants in the state.”Appointed same person who currently heads the air division at Obama’s EPA. (NY Times).

Accuses EPA of irrationally over-regulating air pollution and calls for immediate roll-back of EPA regulations of pollution from power plants.

Gas prices

“Mr. Romney remarked to an adviser, Rob Gray, that ‘we’d be a lot better off in this country if we had European gas prices”’ because Americans would buy more energy-efficient cars.” (NY Times)

Attacks President Obama for allowing gas prices to increase and for mandating more fuel-efficient cars.

Cross-posted from the environmental law and policy blog Legal Planet.