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We have made a mistake, is what I believe, in saying that the EPA should regulate carbon emissions.

Romney on issues where environment, economy meet

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For the first time in a long time, political observers had been eyeing New York's Republican Presidential Primary, wondering if New York voters might actually have an impact on who's running for the White House. But it appears the GOP nominee has all but been decided before a single ballot is cast in the Empire State.

The Innovation Trail's Zack Seward looks at Mitt Romney's positions on a couple of key economic issues.

Marie Cusick, Ryan Delaney, Matt Richmond and Daniel Robison contributed reporting on this story. The Innovation Trail is a collaboration between five upstate public media outlets, reporting on New York's innovation economy. Support comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

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In a matter of days, the Environmental Protection Agency is expected to issue new rules regulating air pollution by the natural gas industry.

The regulations could have a major impact on companies hoping to start hydrofracking in upstate New York. And that's bad energy policy, according to leading Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, appearing on FOX News.

"I look at the effort on the EPA, for instance, to step in the way of fracking and to eliminate the potential in some states to have our access to natural gas and oil, and say look, this is all an effort to say, 'Let's just go solar and wind.'"

Romney says renewable energy sources won't come close to meeting America's demand.

"We all like the renewables. But renewables alone are not going to power this economy."

At a recent Wall Street Journal economic conference, Romney advisor Jim Talent also attacked the nation's current energy policy. This time as it relates to oil production, and ultimately the price of gas at the pump.  
Talent: "They've used the regulatory powers of the government, the control over the western lands and the Gulf, as well as EPA regulations to increase the price or to deny access to oil."

But the campaign rhetoric is missing the point. That's according Karen Moreau, head of the New York State Petroleum Council.

"Energy policy is not something that you do overnight."

Moreau says energy companies just don't know what to expect, so the nation needs a more stable energy plan that doesn't fluctuate with the political seasons.

One longtime advisor to the U.S. Department of Energy that we spoke with, says both Romney and Obama should be talking more about using less.

But energy conservation and environmental issues don't usually resonate with primary voters, especially in a tough economy. So there hasn't been a lot of discussion on the campaign trail.

But in video of a town hall meeting posted by liberal blog Think Progress, Romney appears to be calling for amending the Clean Air Act.

"We have made a mistake, is what I believe, in saying that the EPA should regulate carbon emissions. I don't think that was the intent of the original legislation, and I don't think carbon is a pollutant in the sense of harming our bodies."

Romney has gone on record saying carbons, and humans, do contribute to global warming, but he has since backed off those comments.

Wilcoxin: "Yeah. The Republican candidates have all really been engaging in a race to see who can backpedal on climate policy as far and as fast as possible."

That's Pete Wilcoxin, head of Syracuse University's Center on Environmental Policy and Administration.

But environmental issues aren't the only topics Romney hasn't dwelled on on the campaign trail.

Nabil Nasr, director of the Center for Integrated Manufacturing Studies at the Rochester Institute of Technology, says manufacturing isn't getting the attention it deserves.

"The role of government, the role of policy here, is far more needed today than it's ever been before."

Nasr points out that manufacturing accounts for more than ten percent of the Rochester area work force, and he says the nation needs a balanced industrial policy.

But out on the factory floor of Rochester's Certified Grinding and Machine, president Bob Rock says strong industrial policy or not, he's doing pretty well.

Rock: "We've been in business for 50 years and 2011 was our best year in the last ten."

Seward: "Do you attribute that to efforts that the Obama administration is doing?"

Rock: "No."

Rock says he'll probably vote for Romney, in hopes of even better things to come.

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