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Romney debuts energy plan in oil-rich New Mexico


HOBBS, NM -- Mitt Romney returned to oil country this morning to sell his new energy plan, setting a goal of reaching North American energy independence by 2020 in large part by removing regulatory barriers to fossil fuel development in the United States, and increasing cooperation with fellow energy-producers Canada and Mexico.

"I will set a national goal of America and North America -- North American energy independence by 2020," Romney pledged. "That means we produce all the energy we use in North America. And there are a number of things I'm going to do to make that happen. It is achievable. This is not some pie in the sky kind of thing. This is a real, achievable objective."

Evan Vucci / AP

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaks during a campaign event at Watson Truck and Supply Aug. 23.

Romney's plan, laid out in a white paper and conference call with reporters last night, calls for streamlining the permit process for energy development on federal lands and offshore, for building infrastructure like the Keystone Pipeline, and supporting basic research on next-generation fuels like wind and solar, while abandoning subsidies and loan guarantees that, Romney argues, have tilted the marketplace in favor of those energy sources.

With the plan largely fleshed out before Romney's remarks, the candidate took on the role of chief salesman for his plan today, telling a crowd of a few hundred supporters here there would be ancillary benefits to boosting domestic energy production beyond lowering energy prices at home.

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"Three million jobs come back to this country by taking advantage of something we have right underneath our feet, that’s oil and gas and coal, we’re going to make it happen we’re going to create those jobs," Romney said.

"Let me tell you what else it does," Romney continued "It adds $500 billion to the size of our economy. That’s more good wages, that’s an opportunity for more Americans to have a bright and prosperous future. It also means by the way tens of billions, potentially hundreds of billions of dollars of tax revenues going into states and the federal government, which can make sure we have a military second to none and schools that lead the world and care for our seniors, better roads and bridges."

Romney also argued that becoming less dependent on unstable or hostile regimes for energy increases America's national security.

"This is not just a matter of economy and jobs and rising incomes and the growing economy and more tax revenues. It’s also more security. It means we don’t have to rely on people who in some cases don’t like us very much," Romney said.

Democrats responded to Romney's remarks with a statement.

"He will embrace a backward, drilling-focused energy policy that prioritizes subsidies and tax breaks for the big oil and gas companies and leaves behind efforts to increase energy efficiency and develop homegrown alternative energy," Obama campaign spokesperson Lis Smith wrote in a statement to reporters. "This isn’t a recipe for energy independence; it’s just another irresponsible scheme to help line the pockets of big oil while allowing the U.S. to fall behind and cede the clean energy sector to China."

Romney's choice of venue for publicly unveiling his plan raises some questions about his campaign strategy. The presumptive GOP nominee had not previously campaigned or run television ads in New Mexico, and while the state ranks 6th in oil production, according to government assessments, it is not considered a swing state. President Obama carried the state in 2008, and NBC's current battleground map, debuted this morning, places it in squarely in the "Lean Democratic" category.