GOP front-runner Mitt Romney’s plan to go further than President Obama or President George W. Bush in confronting China is raising concerns among business-friendly Republicans, who believe it could “set off a counterproductive trade war.” (NYT)
“The political question is whether Mr. Romney’s stance can attract enough votes to give him the chance to put it into effect,” the New York Times’ John Harwood writes. “That question echoes through Republican primaries, in which he has struggled to connect with working-class conservatives, and a possible general election against Mr. Obama. Republican and Democratic strategists alike say that confronting China can play effectively to an anxious public’s sense of economic grievance.”
The U.S. Commerce Department said Tuesday it would impose import tariffs (NYT) on solar panels from China after ruling the government provides illegal subsidies to manufacturers. Faulting the move, Bloomberg’s Deborah Solomon said opposing China is “an issue that makes for excellent politics, combining support for U.S. jobs, American manufacturing and clean energy,” but unfortunately, the Obama administration’s approach could hurt U.S. clean energy development and “unnecessarily complicate U.S.-China relations in the process.”
President Obama on Thursday issued an executive order creating a steering committee to improve permitting decisions for energy infrastructure and signed a memo directing federal agencies to speed up decisions on domestic oil pipeline projects. Earlier this year, the president deferred construction of TransCanada’s would-be Keystone XL pipeline, which was to stretch from Canada to the Gulf Coast. Thursday’s directives would pave the way for the Oklahoma-to-Texas leg of the project.
Republican proponents of more drilling said the White House is not doing enough to increase domestic oil production, while environmentalists called the decision to speed up the southern leg of the pipeline “a slap in the face” (TheHill).
A new Gallup poll says 42 percent of voters describe the energy situation as “very serious,” but gas prices still rate behind other issues as the most important problem, such as the economy.
Campaigning ahead of Saturday’s primary, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich stuck with their energy-issue mantras (TimesPicayune) as they crisscrossed Louisiana — with “drill, baby drill” from Santorum and promises of $2.50 gas from Gingrich.
— Contributing Editor Gayle S. Putrich and Senior Editor Toni Johnson