Energy should be top issue of 2016 American election campaign

Texas Railroad Commissioner Christi Craddick says America needs a national energy strategy. Election is the perfect time for debate about energy

With the introduction of the Clean Power Plan, President Barack Obama has inserted energy squarely into the 2016 election campaign. Now, the candidates need to tell us where they stand.

10 million Americans rely on the energy industry for their jobs, according to Christi Craddick.

There is a very good argument that energy should be the number one campaign issue.

No other issue affects the everyday life and pocketbook of so many Americans to such a degree. Energy affects jobs, the American manufacturing revival, the environment (on many fronts), national security, international trade, infrastructure (such as pipelines), and business prospects in many states.

In less than a decade, America has transformed from a dependent energy wimp into a burly energy super heavyweight, thanks in large part to the shale revolution in oil and gas production. But energy policy has not kept pace. As Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, chair of the powerful committee on energy and natural resources, keeps pointing out, far too many American policies – like the ban on exporting crude oil – were enacted decades ago and don’t reflect modern reality.

And in that same period climate change has emerged as a major international issue. Even global energy companies like Shell and BP are calling for action on greenhouse gas emissions. Public opinion polls regularly show a majority of Americans support action on climate change.

Energy and climate change are inextricably linked. We can’t address one without addressing the other. Which is why presidential hopefuls for both parties should heed the call by the CEO of the American Petroleum Institute.

“We’re calling on candidates – Republican and Democrat alike – to share with voters their vision for harnessing this American energy moment,” says Jack Gerard in a statement.

Jack Gerard, president and CEO of the American Petroleum Institute. Photo: Handout.

Gerard naturally wants the candidates to explain how they would advance the interests of the oil and gas industry. But he nevertheless makes a good point: Candidates for both parties need to share their energy policies – and visions – with voters.

As things stand, the parties are miles apart.

President Obama, anxious to establish his legacy with serious action on environmental issues and frustrated by Republican control of Congress, is using the Environmental Protection Agency to advance his climate change agenda. The EPA is using existing legislation, like the Clean Air Act, to expand regulations on a number of fronts apart from the Clean Power Plan, including reducing methane emissions from oil and gas production and reducing ozone emissions. Many states see this as an encroachment on their constitutional turf and have vowed to push back, hard.

“President Obama continued his unilateral executive overreach by seeking to take unprecedented control over each state’s power market through his new environmental regulations,” said Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, echoing many Republican politicians, vowing his state will oppose an “over-reaching federal government that seems hell-bent on threatening the free-market principles this country was founded on.”

Leading Democrat presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton says she stands behind Obama’s environmental priorities. Most of her competitors appear to do the same.

Christi Craddick, Railroad Commission of Texas.

Christi Craddick, a commissioner of the Railroad Commission of Texas, has a very good idea. In a Forbes editorial published Tuesday, Craddick proposes the creation of a national energy strategy. Not surprisingly, Craddick is no friend of the President. She accuses him of over-regulating the American energy industry and damaging its competitiveness at a time when it is under severe pressure from external sources like OPEC.

And being a good Texan, she argues the strategy should be based on the “Texas model” of free market principles and sensible regulation – coincidentally just like the kind the RRCT enacts and enforces.

But Craddick says she – and by extension Texas – is also open to “a good debate.” Implicit in her editorial is the idea that a national energy strategy incorporating some of Texas’ ideals is better than the polarized status quo where energy producing states believe they’re under siege by a hostile federal government with a “radical” environmental agenda.

And what better place to have a debate than during a presidential election?

So let’s see candidates from both parties present thoughtful and well developed energy platforms to the American voter over the next 15 months. Let’s urge both parties to make energy policy their top priority during the campaign.



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