In 2016, Republicans Will Have Fracking on Their Side

National Journal
Clare Foran
June 12, 2014, 1:15 a.m.

The road to the White House could be paved with oil and gas for a trio of Re­pub­lic­an pres­id­en­tial hope­fuls.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Sen. Ted Cruz, and Louisi­ana Gov. Bobby Jin­dal all come from states where frack­ing has cre­ated new jobs in the oil and gas in­dustry. And if any of the Gulf State law­makers launch a pres­id­en­tial bid, frack­ing will bol­ster their eco­nom­ic track re­cord.

In­deed, all three have gone to great lengths to high­light the en­ergy suc­cess story un­fold­ing in their state. The fact that the boom is tak­ing place in their back­yard gives the cadre of con­ser­vat­ives a leg up when it comes time to talk up the be­ne­fits of frack­ing. It also opens the door for them to say they’ve steered their state in the dir­ec­tion of an oil-and-gas gold rush.

“They have cred­ib­il­ity on this is­sue that chal­lengers from states where there is no frack­ing can’t lay claim to,” said Matt Mack­owiak, a Texas-based Re­pub­lic­an con­sult­ant. “There’s a dif­fer­ence between a talk­ing point and something that’s part of your re­cord.”

How much cred­it any of the po­ten­tial can­did­ates de­serve for the en­ergy boom, however, is a mat­ter of con­ten­tion, as is the size of frack­ing’s eco­nom­ic con­tri­bu­tion. Texas and Louisi­ana have be­nefited from their grow­ing en­ergy in­dus­tries, but the sec­tor’s im­pact on the over­all eco­nomy is of­ten over­sold.

Data re­leased by the fed­er­al Bur­eau of Eco­nom­ic Ana­lys­is on Wed­nes­day show that Texas had the eighth-highest gross do­mest­ic product growth rate in the na­tion from 2012 to 2013. Louisi­ana’s over­all eco­nom­ic growth was not as stark. It ranked 34th by the same met­rics.

Ac­cord­ing to the bur­eau’s ana­lys­is, the en­ergy sec­tor was not a ma­jor driver of total eco­nom­ic growth in either state. In Louisi­ana, the min­ing in­dustry ac­tu­ally con­trac­ted by 2.42 per­cent. And in the end, the suc­cess of frack­ing in Texas and Louisi­ana has more to do with the vast re­serves of shale rock un­der­ly­ing each state than the im­ple­ment­a­tion of any policy.

But such nu­ance has a tend­ency to get lost on the cam­paign trail, where eco­nom­ic re­cords are more of­ten taken at face value then parsed for caus­al­ity or the coun­ter­fac­tu­al. And so, Jin­dal, Perry, and Cruz would come to the cam­paign with a power­ful ar­gu­ment.

Fossil-fuel pro­duc­tion could also help Re­pub­lic­ans in the gen­er­al elec­tion. They have a straight­for­ward mes­sage on fossil-fuel de­vel­op­ment: “Yes, and more.”

But across the aisle, there’s neither unity nor sim­pli­city. Some Demo­crats have em­braced frack­ing and nat­ur­al gas as a job cre­at­or and a “bridge fuel” to power the coun­try dur­ing a trans­ition from coal to car­bon-free sources. But oth­ers on the left are wary of the drilling meth­od, both out of skep­ti­cism of its cli­mate be­ne­fits and fears over its loc­al en­vir­on­ment­al foot­print.

Hil­lary Clin­ton, the fa­vor­ite for the Demo­crat­ic pres­id­en­tial nom­in­ee should she de­cide to run, says that in­creased nat­ur­al-gas pro­duc­tion has “cre­ated ma­jor eco­nom­ic and stra­tegic op­por­tun­it­ies,” in her re­cently re­leased book Hard Choices. But if she wins the Demo­crat­ic nom­in­a­tion, frack­ing could still cre­ate a polit­ic­al head­ache for Clin­ton.

The con­tro­ver­sial drilling tech­nique polls well with con­ser­vat­ive voters. Demo­crats, on the oth­er hand, are much more likely to be skep­tic­al. (A Pew sur­vey con­duc­ted in Septem­ber 2013 found that 59 per­cent of lib­er­al voters op­posed an in­crease in frack­ing, while 58 per­cent of con­ser­vat­ives sup­por­ted an in­crease.)

Obama has walked a fine line between pro­mot­ing nat­ur­al gas and her­ald­ing the rise of the clean-en­ergy eco­nomy. And the next Demo­crat­ic pres­id­en­tial can­did­ate, Hil­lary Clin­ton or oth­er­wise, is all but guar­an­teed to do the same.

Re­pub­lic­ans, mean­while, could use this to their ad­vant­age. “Frack­ing is an is­sue that could drive a wedge in the Demo­crat­ic Party,” said Chris Turn­er, pres­id­ent and CEO of Texas-based Re­pub­lic­an con­sult­ing firm Stam­pede Con­sult­ing. “If you can split Demo­crats over the is­sue that makes their can­did­ate po­ten­tially much more vul­ner­able.”

Perry, Cruz, and Jin­dal are already levy­ing those at­tacks. Each has cri­ti­cized the ad­min­is­tra­tion for fail­ing to live up to its fossil-fuel po­ten­tial, and they’ve all put for­ward policy pro­pos­als to ramp up fossil-fuel pro­duc­tion.

In Feb­ru­ary, Cruz out­lined a sweep­ing plan to boost oil and gas drilling, in front of an audi­ence of in­flu­en­tial con­ser­vat­ives at the Her­it­age Found­a­tion in Wash­ing­ton.

In Decem­ber, Jin­dal de­livered an ad­dress in Phil­adelphia de­fend­ing frack­ing against claims ques­tion­ing its en­vir­on­ment­al safety. The Louisi­ana gov­ernor also took to the pages of The Wall Street Journ­al to ex­press sup­port for “a clear strategy of in­creas­ing en­ergy pro­duc­tion in all sec­tors — in­clud­ing the hy­dro­car­bon sources ab­horred by the left.”

And dur­ing his last pres­id­en­tial run, Perry pre­viewed a plan that he said would cre­ate more than a mil­lion jobs na­tion­wide through in­creased en­ergy pro­duc­tion.

What We're Following See More »
STAFF PICKS
What the Current Crop of Candidates Could Learn from JFK
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Much has been made of David Brooks’s recent New York Times column, in which confesses to missing already the civility and humanity of Barack Obama, compared to who might take his place. In NewYorker.com, Jeffrey Frank reminds us how critical such attributes are to foreign policy. “It’s hard to imagine Kennedy so casually referring to the leader of Russia as a gangster or a thug. For that matter, it’s hard to imagine any president comparing the Russian leader to Hitler [as] Hillary Clinton did at a private fund-raiser. … Kennedy, who always worried that miscalculation could lead to war, paid close attention to the language of diplomacy.”

Source:
STAFF PICKS
Maher Weighs in on Bernie, Trump and Palin
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

“We haven’t seen a true leftist since FDR, so many millions are coming out of the woodwork to vote for Bernie Sanders; he is the Occupy movement now come to life in the political arena.” So says Bill Maher in his Hollywood Reporter cover story (more a stream-of-consciousness riff than an essay, actually). Conservative states may never vote for a socialist in the general election, but “this stuff has never been on the table, and these voters have never been activated.” Maher saves most of his bile for Donald Trump and Sarah Palin, writing that by nominating Palin as vice president “John McCain is the one who opened the Book of the Dead and let the monsters out.” And Trump is picking up where Palin left off.

Source:
×