As the Republican presidential contest heats up, the candidates continue to focus on jobs, government spending, and taxes. Energy and environment issues have been a big part of that discussion, mostly in the form of criticism of President Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency, questions about the administration’s loan-guarantee program that funded now-bankrupt Solyndra, and proposals to ramp up domestic drilling.
About 80 percent of National Journal’s Energy and Environment Insiders think that energy and environment issues will remain a significant factor for Republican presidential candidates heading into the 2012 election.
Of Insiders responding, 25 percent said that energy and environment issues will be “very significant” for the GOP candidates; nearly 55 percent said that the issues will be “somewhat significant.”
“If Republicans can successfully tie energy policy to their jobs agenda, it could be a very good campaign issue for the Republican nominee,” one Insider said.
“Households are spending more disposable income on energy than they have in a decade,” wrote another Insider. “Selling energy as a job creator rather than an economic enabler has stayed politically trendy.”
The trendsetter for the GOP has been Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who last week presented his own energy plan that he said would boost economic recovery and create jobs. Among his proposals was expanded drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, the Arctic Ocean, the South Atlantic, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and Western states. He also wants to target what he calls EPA’s “job-killing” regulations.
“The quickest way to give the economy a shot in the arm is deploy American ingenuity to tap American energy,” Perry said.
Insiders said that Republican candidates will continue to make the case that their energy priorities would create domestic jobs—while arguing that Obama’s policies hurt the economy.
“As long as the economy continues to sputter, energy and environment policies will be a key part of the narrative,” said one.
Nearly half of Insiders said Obama's decision whether to approve the controversial Keystone XL pipeline to bring tar-sands oil 1,700 miles from Canada to Texas will be his most significant energy and environment decision before the 2012 election. The State Department could announce a decision by the end of this year.
“The Keystone decision will be emblematic of the larger decision this White House makes—what will be federal policy relative to traditional fossil-fuel production and usage as a way of lifting the overall economy,” one Insider said.
Thirty-two percent of Insiders chose “other” as their response to the question regarding the most significant energy and environment issue he faces, specifying a variety of policy issues ranging from decisions on clean-energy investment to those regarding EPA regulations.
While 18 percent of Insiders said that Obama’s decision last month to stall tighter ozone smog standards from the EPA would ultimately be seen as his biggest environmental decision, some Insiders argued that the way the administration decides on whether to issue final toxic air pollution standards for utilities could influence the 2012 election.
“Issuing a final toxics rule will be the biggest decision in this space by far; a major delay will be seen as a sign of weakness and full-scale retreat by the administration on environmental policy,” said one Insider.
While the Keystone decision will be important, on Insider said, “all of the proposed emissions rules will have a much greater impact on jobs and the economy (negatively), and thus a much larger political impact.”
How significant of a role will energy and environment issues play for GOP candidates in the 2012 election?
- Very Significant 25%
- Somewhat Significant 54.5%
- Somewhat Insignificant 16%
- Very Insignificant 4.5%
“Nations go to war over energy security, not health care, immigration or broadband access. Like it or not, economic and energy security are inevitably intertwined and the Republican candidate, whoever that eventually is, will have a unique opportunity to make that case very effectively in 2012 against this president.”
“At least for one more cycle. Households are spending more disposable income on energy than they have in a decade. Selling energy as a job creator rather than an economic enabler has stayed politically trendy, even though it represents a 'sell signal' for our economy as a whole.”
“The GOP is going to run its campaign on 20th century energy, which is as smart as running on Windows 2.0 in a iOS5 world.”
“If Republicans can successfully tie energy policy to their jobs agenda, it could be a very good campaign issue for the Republican nominee.”
“GOP candidates will likely rally around the same orthdoxy, the false promise of energy independence and portraying EPA as a rogue agency for following court orders -- they will try to separate themselves on tone -- harshness of attack, rather than substance, where there is little difference.”
“Since all of the GOP candidates agree on the Republican Party's 'drill, baby, drill' approach to energy policy, its hostility to any new EPA pollution controls, and its disinterest in doing anything about global warming, it is hard to see energy and environmental issues play a significant role in the nomination process. In the general election, however, I think their nominee could be quite vulnerable on these issues.”
"All the GOP candidates are beating up on EPA and, with the possible exception of Huntsman, believe that we should substantially increase domestic energy production. Since there is not much to distinguish any of them from each other on energy and environmental issues, such issues will not play a significant role in the Republican primary."
This article appears in the October 19, 2011 edition of NJ Daily.