President Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) are both used to taking heat on their respective energy plans.
Obama earlier this year scrapped an ozone pollution regulation that was strongly favored by environmentalists. The move stunned congressional Democrats as well as environmental activists.
Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), the ranking member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, said the decision was a mistake “substantively and politically.”
“It was very discouraging to their environmental base; they didn’t really have a good rationale for it,” Waxman told The Hill in September. “It just seemed that they were just bowing to a lot of pressure, and I don’t think that’s the way they ought to be.”
Now environmental groups are bracing for the Obama administration’s looming decision on the proposed 1,700-mile Keystone XL oil sands pipeline.
Many in organized labor support the pipeline, so the issue splits two major factions on the political left.
Environmentalists have warned that a decision in favor of the project would make it tougher to rally activists on Obama’s behalf in the 2012 election. And they have made it clear they would legally challenge the approval of the TransCanada Corp. permit.
Obama is clearly in a tough spot. He risks angering part of his base if he approves the initiative. If he denies the permit, Republicans will say that Obama is not serious about creating jobs. There is speculation that Obama will punt until after the election.
Romney, who Democrats view as Obama’s biggest threat in 2012, has also attracted criticism for his position on a high-profile energy issue.
Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.) ripped the Republican White House hopefuls last week for their stances on the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository.
In a floor speech on the House floor, Duncan suggested he was stunned by how the presidential candidates answered a question about Yucca Mountain during a recent debate in Nevada. Duncan is a freshman, but an important one because his endorsement is coveted in the early primary state of South Carolina, where Romney finished fifth in 2008.
“I was deeply disappointed when the presidential candidates were recently asked about Yucca Mountain,” Duncan said. “I was astonished that these good folks would echo the failed rhetoric of Sen. Harry ReidHarry ReidSanders and Schumer are right: Ellison for DNC chair The Hill's 12:30 Report Hopes rise for law to expand access to experimental drugs MORE [D-Nev.].”
Duncan didn’t name Romney, but Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) and Romney said they were against storing the waste in the Silver State. Former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) said he supports sending the nation’s nuclear waste to Yucca.
The chances of an Obama-Romney matchup in the general election are fairly good. But before they debate each other on energy issues, the two men will have to deal with intraparty angst.