Swing Producers

Ten states where the energy debate could decide the U.S. election in November.


Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and oil-industry lobbyists have targeted a small group of swing states as keys to winning the White House and control over both houses of Congress. The pivotal issue in each state, in their view, is the extraction of fossil fuels, and the number of jobs the industry can produce. Here are 10 states that could decide the next election — and with it the future of the United States.

Colorado, 9 electoral votes: A center of the fossil fuels-and-jobs debate, Colorado shows a slight, 1.8 percentage-point edge to Obama in an average of recent polls, according to RealClearPolitics. Possibly making the race close: the American Petroleum Institute projects the potential for 235,000 energy-rated jobs in the state by 2030.

Florida, 29 electoral votes: Potential offshore drilling and high gas prices make energy a pivotal issue in Florida, where polls show Obama and Romney in a dead heat.

Iowa, 6 electoral votes: In Iowa, a center for alternative fuel sources, including biofuels and wind energy, Iowa polls have Obama and Romney neck and neck.


Missouri, 10 electoral votes: In addition to the contested presidential race, a fierce Senate campaign is underway in Missouri between incumbent Democrat Claire McCaskill and three Republican challengers. Energy issues have featured centrally in the Senate contest. McCaskill has called for an end to federal subsidies to oil companies that she believes favor the wealthy at taxpayer expense; Republicans argue that ending the subsidies would only hurt average consumers by raising gasoline prices.

Nevada, 6 electoral votes: Obama enjoys a six-point lead in the latest polling in a state with the highest unemployment rate in the country, at 11.7 percent, and a serious solar industry. Campaigning there, Obama has denounced Republican opponents of renewable fuels.

North Carolina, 15 electoral votes: Obama has drawn attention to the state’s Daimler factory and its development of natural-gas vehicles. But after winning North Carolina in 2008, the first time it went Democratic since 1976, Obama is trailing Romney, as the state suffers 9.5 percent unemployment.


North Dakota, 3 electoral votes: Romney seems likely to romp in the presidential race, but a Senate contest is close. Democratic candidate Heidi Heitkamp, running against Republican Rep. Rick Berg, has distanced herself from Obama’s energy policies, including his delay of the Keystone XL Pipeline, which would pass through North Dakota.

Ohio, 18 electoral votes: Ohio’s Utica Shale is a campaign issue since it could produce thousands of natural-gas industry jobs and revive struggling chemical and steel plants. Yet environmental concerns make this state a close race. A recent Quinnipac Poll found that while 64 percent of Ohioans believe the economic benefits of natural-gas drilling outweigh the environmental side effects, 72 percent think that fracking — the injection of highly pressurized fluid into rock formations to improve the flow of petroleum or natural gas — should be suspended until it has been studied further.

Pennsylvania, 20 electoral votes: Polls show Obama up 5 points to 8 points in this center for gas drilling, but Romney will look to use the issue of shale-gas jobs to chip away at that. In an April visit to the state, Romney called Obama an “anti-energy president” and accused him of using the federal bureaucracy to slow down fracking and the extraction of Pennsylvania resources.

Virginia, 13 electoral votes: Romney has slammed Obama for allegedly sacrificing jobs by opposing offshore oil drilling, and Republican Senate candidate George Allen says gasoline prices are too high. All in all, one of the most highly contested presidential and Senate races among the swing states.


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