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Nantucket, Mitt Romney and Energy Independence

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It may simply be too ironic to ignore. Last week, former Massachusetts Governor Willard Mitt Romney told reporters at a private fundraising event in Corona, California that the nation needed to strive for energy independence.

Romney's schtick: The United State depends too heavily on foreign oil.

And in the July issue of Foreign Affairs, Romney writes: "Energy independence will require technology" that reduces our use of oil. Among the technologies mentioned by the former Bay State governor -- wind turbines.

Were the governor to claim he supported energy independence to a Massachusetts audience, he'd get laughed right out of the state.

Every voter who has followed the perilous progress of Cape Wind, the nation's flagship offshore wind project proposed for Nantucket Sound (summer home of many of Romney's campaign financiers) knows that, if it weren't for the governor, the project might well have been built by now.

Throughout his four-year term heading up the Bay State government, Romney's behind-the-scenes stalling tactics were both legion and legend. Indeed, when a long-time state employee blew the whistle in public on the endless delays engineered by Romney and his partners in crime, Massachusetts Senator Edward M. Kennedy and Kennedy's Congressman, Democrat William Delahunt, the woman was perfunctorily fired.

When the project's proponent, Jim Gordon of the Boston-based Energy Management Inc., first proposed the project in 2001, he said he hoped to get the turbines in the water and turning by 2004.

Then Mitt Romney became governor. Romney's motto in Massachusetts was not NIMBY but NIMTOF -- Not In My Term of Office. As governor, his opposition to any and all wind power was relentless. Although the Bay State has excellent wind resources, both on land and at sea, during Romney's term of office only three commercial-scale wind turbines were erected in Massachusetts, comprising only about three megawatts of power.

And these turbines appeared in spite of -- not because of -- the governor.

"I've seen wind farms," the governor said at an Army Corps of Engineers federal hearing on Cape Cod. "They're not pretty."

How's that for energy independence?

When it comes to wind power, Romney has made quite a show of leadership here in New England. In our book Cape Wind, just published by PublicAffairs Press, we devote several chapters to discussing Romney's behind-the-scenes attempts to stop this project.

Since 2001 Romney has stated relentlessly that Nantucket Sound, where the Kennedy family lives, is a "national treasure." This body of water, which possesses one of the most technically perfect offshore wind energy sites in the nation, is too "special" to be the site of a 468-megawatt wind energy project which would supply almost all of Cape Cod's electrical needs and which would clearly, because of the configuration of the New England electric grid, decrease the use of Cape Cod's oil-fired behemoth, the Cape Cod Canal electrical generating plant.

Absolutely no science supports Romney's claim. The project has received an almost squeaky-clean environmental bill of health. There is nothing unique about Nantucket Sound, environmentally speaking.

Socially, of course, is another matter. The richest people in the world own summer properties there, including many of the former governor's major campaign supporters.

Should Romney become the presidential nominee, voters will have to decided for themselves to whom Romney will give his greatest allegiance -- Americans who both need and want energy independence, or his wealthy Nantucket Sound financiers and his long-time friends, the Kennedy family.