The race to be dirty

The ever interesting Steve LeVine makes an unusual point about Mitt Romney.

He writes that “Calculating that clean energy is passé among Americans more concerned about jobs and their own pocketbooks, Romney is gambling that he can tip swing voters his way by embracing dirtier air and water if the tradeoff is more employment and economic growth”. Indeed, as has been noted here before, there is now so an abudence of energy resources that policy makers have to decide which to priortise.

The article argues that “Romney’s gamble is essentially a bet on the demonstrated disruptive potency of shale gas and shale oil, which over the last year or so have shaken up geopolitics from Russia to the Middle East and China. Now, Romney and the GOP leadership hope they will have the same impact on U.S. domestic politics”. Importantly he adds that “A flood of new oil and natural gas production in states such as North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas is changing the national and global economies. U.S. oil production is projected to reach 6.3 million barrels a day this year”.  Naturally, this will have great relevance for the United States when it comes to its dealings with the Middle East, yet perhaps of more relevance for Romney and the election in November, he writes that, President Obama’s “critics say an unfettered fossil fuels industry could produce 1.4 million new jobs by 2030. They believe that American voters won’t be too impressed with Obama’s argument that he is leading a balanced energy-and-jobs approach that includes renewable fuels and electric cars”.

Indeed, almost anthing that is “unfettered” is extremely dangerous. Obama deserves support, although some of his decisions are politically motivated, he will be proved right in many decades hence. It is a great problem to democracy, as has been witnessed in Europe and America, that it does not make long term planned politically useful. Dictatorships have no elecotrate to face every four or five years and so can can into account demographics and other factors, that ordinarily would be of little importance to politicians.   

Crucially LeVine points out that “The GOP’s oil-and-jobs campaign — in April alone, 81 percent of U.S. political ads attacking Obama were on the subject of energy, according to Kantar Media, a firm that tracks political advertising — is a risk that could backfire. Americans could decide that they prefer clean energy after all. Or, as half a dozen election analysts and political science professors told me, energy — even if it seems crucial at this moment in time — may not be a central election issue by November”.

He argues correctly that there has been a long history of clean politics, with Richard Nixon founding the EPA and that “President George W. Bush also famously declared that ‘America is addicted to oil’ in his 2006 State of the Union address, and initiated most of the energy programs for which Obama is currently under fire. And Palin’s drumbeat [to increase drilling in Alaska] in the end seemed to fall flat”.

He ends noting that “Romney grants that Obama is not precisely Mr. Clean — while the president has championed clean energy technologies, he has also stewarded over the greatest buildup in U.S. fossil fuel production since the 1990s. But Romney insists he will be dirtier: He vows to open more land to oil and gas drilling, approve the import of more Canadian oil sands to Gulf Coast refineries, and allow more coal mining”. Whether a President Romney would really pass all these measures is highly doubtful, so it should simply be taken as telling people what they want to hear, nothing more.


2 Responses to “The race to be dirty”

  1. Resource winners « Order and Tradition Says:

    […] the green movement and of course, OPEC with “prices dropping and competing supplies flowing from numerous new […]

  2. “Promises far too much” « Order and Tradition Says:

    […] debate about American energy independence rolls on, with an article noting that Romney’s energy team […]

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