The issue of energy – and specifically energy independence – has apparently been on the agenda of presidential candidates since President Jimmy Carter created the Department of Energy in 1977. The Department protects America’s security and prosperity, and environmental health by advancing the science and technology that drives the energy industries.
What are those industries? Some are familiar because they tend to cause pollution, like coal. Others are familiar because they’re often imported, like oil. Others are domestic, clean, and abundant, including hydropower, solar, wind and nuclear power.
The Obama administration has tried to use science and technology to come up with solutions to the issues of energy source independence and environmental protection.
Those who do not count themselves among the protectors of the snowy owl and spawning salmon may have concluded that President Obama has made it a point, almost to the point of exhaustion, to insert references to clean energy and clean energy jobs into almost every speech and proposed piece of legislation on the economy and the environment. Green is definitely the color in the White House.
During his 2008 campaign, Senator Obama made no secret that “greenifying“ and reducing the nation’s carbon footprint would define his administration. Billions in incentives were offered in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for green roofing of buildings. Targets were also set for a government vehicle fleet that was partially or wholly electric. Billions more have been offered in the form of loan guarantees to spur financing of clean energy firms.
President Obama’s goal has been to create a clean energy environment while tackling the issues of climate change and environmental protection. The president also believes that by transitioning to clean energy, the nation will see economic growth and the creation of millions of jobs.
At the top of the president’s agenda is continued increase in domestic oil production, which the White House pegged at 2 billion barrels in 2010. The president is also targeting higher mileage standards for vehicles. He would like to see a fuel standard of 35.5 miles per gallon for cars sold here in the U.S.
Investing in electric cars and cleaner public buses are also a priority.
Above all, the president wants to double the amount of energy it creates by diversifying the sources of fuel to include geothermal, solar, and wind. To pay for this, the administration wants to eliminate tax breaks for oil and gas companies.
By 2035, the administration would like to see 80% of electricity derived from alternative sources.
It may not be surprising that this aggressive energy agenda won’t be followed by any Republican who happens to capture the White House in 2012. In fact, of the three leading candidates for the GOP nomination, only one, Herman Cain, has made any attempt to offer a definitive energy policy on his website.
All three of the leading GOP candidates support offshore drilling. Texas Governor Rick Perry claims that in addition to additional drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, additional drilling in Alaska and on federal western lands would create approximately 1.2 million jobs.
Former Massachusetts Governor Willard “Mitt” Romney endorses expanding the use of nuclear facilities along with offshore drilling. Mr. Romney does not address the use of alternative or renewable energy sources. His Texan counterpart goes even further by suggesting that subsidies and tax credits that currently go to renewable sources of energy be “reshaped” which is code for tilting away from solar, wind, and geothermal and toward oil, gas and coal.
Mr. Cain’s approach to an energy agenda appears more comprehensive. While apparently agreeing overall with Mr. Perry that onerous regulation of the energy industry is having an adverse impact on economic growth and energy production, Mr. Cain has no problem with the development of both fossil fuels and clean energy sources, as long as such development takes place in the free market.
“Alternative energy sources, such as wind, solar, nuclear and hydroelectric are certainly part of the solution long term, but private industry must take the lead for true innovation to be a bigger part of our future energy needs,” according to Mr. Cain. He adds that the market should decide which form of energy source will meet consumers’ needs.
It would be fair to conclude that should a GOP candidate win, his agenda will be deregulatory, less interventionist, less environmentally friendly, and either purely market based or structured with financial incentives that favor oil, gas and coal and disfavor wind and solar.