Wednesday, November 26th, 2014
False
Santorum
Says Mitt Romney supports cap and trade.

Rick Santorum on Tuesday, February 14th, 2012 in a video ad airing in Michigan

Rick Santorum ad says Mitt Romney favors cap and trade

Rick Santorum hit paydirt with this ad playfully mocking Mitt Romney's attacks against him. We check one of the ad's claims.

Here’s the visual: Mitt Romney is armed and tearing through an empty warehouse, firing on his target, Rick Santorum.

It's not the real Mitt Romney; it's a look-alike. Santorum is a cardboard cutout, and the ammo in the gun is mud.

The Santorum campaign ad, "Rombo," is airing in Michigan ahead of the state’s presidential primary. Its message: Romney is attacking his rivals to mask his own record.

"Romney and his super PAC have spent a staggering $20 million brutally attacking fellow Republicans. Why? Because Romney’s trying to hide from his big government Romneycare and his support for job-killing cap and trade."

Here, we’re testing the claim that Romney supports cap-and-trade legislation to fight pollution.

About cap and trade

Cap and trade seeks to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants and other greenhouse gas sources by setting caps on the amount of pollutants a plant can spew into the air. Companies that come in below their caps are allowed to sell emission credits to other companies that need them.

Republicans at one time praised cap and trade as a market-based environmental solution, but recently conservatives have taken to condemning it as an energy tax. Nowadays, you won’t hear Republican presidential candidates say anything but "no" to whether they favor it.

They’re so eager to declare their opposition, the candidates at times have fudged their own records on the subject.

Where Romney stands

We didn’t hear back from the Santorum campaign when we asked for backup for this claim. Romney’s campaign sent us several of his past statements on cap and trade.

In August 2011, speaking at a town hall in Lebanon, N.H., Romney emphasized the need for energy independence.

"My focus as it comes to this topic is to get us off of our dependence on foreign oil, to use our natural gas, to drill for our oil, to use our coal, clean coal, to develop nuclear power, to use solar and wind and efficiency measures, that’s my priority. There are other people who would like to put in place a cap-and-trade program and dramatically increase the cost of energy. That’s their view. And by the way, that would kill a lot of jobs. And I don’t think it’s going to solve the problem of global warming."

In October 2011, speaking at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Romney was asked directly whether he favors it.

Here’s a portion of his answer: "I do not believe in a cap-and-trade program. By the way, they do not call it America warming, they call it global warming. So the idea of America spending massive amounts, trillions of dollars to somehow stop global warming is not a great idea. It loses jobs for Americans, and ultimately it won’t be successful, because industries that are energy-intensive will just get up and go somewhere else. So it doesn’t make any sense at all. My view is that we don’t know what’s causing climate change on this planet. And the idea of spending trillions and trillions of dollars to try to reduce CO2 emissions is not the right course for us."

That’s a slight change from some of his earlier statements about global warming, where he said he believes climate change is, at least in part, caused by human activity.

"I believe that climate change is occurring – the reduction in the size of global ice caps is hard to ignore. I also believe that human activity is a contributing factor. I am uncertain how much of the warming, however, is attributable to man and how much is attributable to factors out of our control," Romney wrote in his 2010 book No Apology.

Going back further, when Romney was governor of Massachusetts, he considered joining a regional cap-and-trade compact known as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. But when it came time to sign the deal, Romney backed out citing "a lack of economic safeguards," according to POLITICO.

We think that’s good evidence that Romney once held at least cautious support for cap and trade. But the Massachusetts episode also shows that he withdrew his support when the policy was tested against economic considerations.

Our ruling

Santorum’s ad says a machine-gun wielding Romney is firing mud to hide his own support of "job-killing cap and trade."

While Romney appears to have favored cap and trade in the past, his actions as governor better prove his skepticism of the policy than his support for it. When he could have signed it into law, he declined. And more recently, Romney has repeatedly said he’s opposed to it. And when asked for evidence of Romney's support for cap and trade, the Santorum campaign failed to produce any. We rate the claim False.

UPDATE, Feb. 22, 2012

After we published this story, a reader pointed us to an air pollution plan Romney proposed that was specific to Massachusetts power plants. It was separate from the regional compact that we noted in the original item. The state proposal set emissions limits on power plants and included a "safety valve" feature which allowed the companies to buy emission offsets from environmental programs rather than make the reductions in their own facilities. "You could reduce your emissions or pay into some alternative compliance fund," said Billy Pizer, a Duke University professor who helped develop the plan. "He (Romney) was looking for mechanisms that would still serve the goals of the program but would limit the financial exposure of the regulated firms."

To Pizer, these carbon limits don’t fit the definition of cap and trade. "Maybe you’d call it the same family, but it’s different because you’re telling each source, ‘here’s what your limit is, but you can buy reductions from these other programs.’ This idea of trying to limit businesses’ exposure from compliance costs is not a feature of cap and trade."

We also talked to Fred Bayles, a former reporter for the Associated Press and USA Today who covered Romney’s administration. He now teaches at Boston University. In Bayles’ opinion, the Massachusetts pollution regulations "fit the broad definition of cap and trade." But he added, "it’s in the eye of the beholder."

We think the emission limits Romney put in place might still raise the hackles of Santorum and other critics of cap and trade. But his program lacked the feature most commonly associated with cap and trade -- namely, an allowance for companies that come in below their emission caps to sell credits to other polluters.

The new information adds some helpful details about Romney's position in the past. It is consistent with what we said in our original story, above, that Romney had expressed some support for cap and trade but backed away from it when he declined to sign on to a regional cap and trade pact. He has opposed it since, which is the basis for ruling Santorum's ad claim False.