Dear GOP Presidential Candidates,
Remember back when energy and climate change were less partisan issues? When President George W. Bush’s administration agreed that climate change was cause by humans, the Pentagon took it seriously enough to deem it a threat to national security, and when one of you and Speaker Pelosi sat down to advocate for cleaner forms of energy?
Although those weren't exactly the good ol’ days, it seems like we were all singing Kumbaya compared to the bitter rhetoric and clear political divide we see today around energy and the environment.
You have all been relatively mum on these topics, with no real solutions that I've heard, other than to build another pipeline or stop investing in innovation because one company failed.
But voters still rank energy as an important area of concern, so you will have to avoid the vague party talking points and instead address these issues thoughtfully and realistically...and soon.
Therefore, I've put together a list of the top five energy issues you gentlemen should be addressing if you want to appeal to moderates in the general election.
In no particular order:
1. Transportation infrastructure: I know you generally recoil at government spending, but this is a basic service the government needs to support (not to mention all the construction jobs it creates). And I’m not just talking bridges and highways, but how are we going to build a modern train and high-speed rail infrastructure that supports the transportation needs of a 21st century economy? The Internet has opened up so many opportunities for collaboration and job creation (I live in a rural area and have (several) great jobs because I can work with colleagues 100 - 1500 miles away). We need a plan for a transportation system that moves goods and people just as effectively as we move information.
2. Transmission infrastructure: Another basic service that the government should provide for its citizens. Our current electric grid is obsolete, to put it mildly. How can the government be proactive and part of the solution in helping to build out a more efficient grid – and one that can handle lots more renewable energy to give us a more balanced energy supply?
3. Energy efficiency: Efficiency and conservation are core conservative values. Let’s hear about a concrete plan that helps us use energy more efficiently, either in our cars, buildings or homes. Not necessarily mandates, but consider something like decoupling, which separates a utility’s revenues from the amount of energy it sells, thereby allowing the utility to invest in energy efficiency programs for customers while continuing to make money.
4. A national renewable energy goal: Notice that I didn't use the word “standard” or “mandate.” But to play off Speaker Gingrich’s idea of companies competing for prizes related to space technology and travel, let’s have a national goal for renewable energy that allows states to tackle it in whatever way is most effective for them (wind, biomass, trash even). Offer incentives that help unleash the entrepreneurial American spirit to experiment and innovate.
5. Make the energy markets honest: We don’t pay for the pollution and other externalities caused by many of our energy sources. The price we’re paying is falsely low, so let’s have a plan to include harmful externalities like pollution and waste in the tax code, but balance it out with fewer taxes on the good stuff, like working and making money.