WASHINGTON -- A funny thing has happened with Mitt Romney's talk about gas prices.

Evidence has surfaced showing that as governor of Massachusetts, Romney behaved much as President Barack Obama is behaving now, describing high gas prices as the natural result of global market pressures and calling for the same vehicle-efficiency standards he now ridicules Obama for embracing.

This has happened at a time when Romney is calling for more drilling and has ramped up his rhetoric about how Obama has failed to curb prices at the pump. Prominent economists have debunked those talking points, saying there's virtually nothing the president can do to lower them in the short term.

At a campaign stop in Illinois on Saturday, Romney called on Obama to fire what he dubbed "the gas-hike trio," a reference to the administration's energy secretary, interior secretary and head of the EPA. "No question in my mind that these -- I call them the gas-hike trio ... are on a mission to drive up the price of gasoline and all energy so that they can finally get their solar and their wind to be more price competitive," he said.

But a piece published Thursday in The New Republic highlights a proposal put forth by Romney as governor of Massachusetts calling for more carpooling, stronger emissions standards and tax incentives for motorists who purchase fuel-efficient vehicles.

In his Climate Protection Plan of 2004, Romney and his transportation and environment czar Doug Foy (who, according to The New Republic would commute to work 20 miles by bike) put forward many strategies for combating climate change. These are strategies that if Romney supported them today, would make him the object of Republican ridicule.

One section deals with vehicle efficiency. See an excerpt from Romney's plan, below:

9. VEHICLES: SUPPORTING CLEAN, EFFICIENT NEW TECHNOLOGIES

Cars, buses, and trucks that are more fuel-efficient and/or use cleaner alternative fuels emit less CO2. The Plan features a wide range of strategies designed to encourage the demand for and sale of hybrid cars and other efficient clean vehicles. Action includes efforts to:

  • Provide incentives to purchase fuel-efficient vehicles
  • Support HOV lane access for clean vehicles
  • Implement stronger vehicle emissions standards
  • Promote the use of cleaner vehicles and fuels in public transit fleets
  • Clean up the existing transit fleet with less polluting fuels
  • Continue to promote the use of cleaner diesel equipment on state-funded construction projects
  • Eliminate unnecessary idling of buses
  • Use cleaner train engine technology to reduce diesel soot
  • Advocate for aircraft efficiency at a regional and national level

The report, described as "an initial step in a coordinated effort to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases," is a far cry from Romney's more recent policy prescription for gas prices, namely drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

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