By Bob Bissen
During their upcoming national conventions, Democrats and Republicans will each adopt a party platform – a formal statement of their basic principles, objectives and positions on major issues. Included in those platforms will likely be positions on energy security, energy independence and renewable energy.
But a look back at the platforms adopted in 2008 shows some planks that are virtually identical, with little difference in position on key energy issues. Which begs the question – if both parties agree on the objectives, why can’t they come to an agreement in Congress on how to achieve them?
In 2008, both parties agreed that the U.S. was facing a crisis in terms of its dependence on foreign oil. The Republican Party platform stated that “our current dependence on foreign fossil fuels threatens both our national security and our economy and could also force drastic changes in the way we live.” Mirroring that sentiment, the Democratic Party platform said that “for the sake of our security – and for every American family that is paying the price at the pump – we will break our addiction to foreign oil.” So both parties made bold statements on the need to take action – but one can argue that Congress has taken no real action to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil.
What about renewables? The Republicans said, “alternate power sources must enter the mainstream” and “in the long run, American production should move to zero-emission sources.” The Democrats said, “we are committed to getting at least 25 percent of our electricity from renewable sources by 2025.” Again, very similar declarations – but Congress has done little to actually move the needle toward significantly increased use of renewables.
And, finally, what about improvements in efficiency or upgrading the country’s aging transmission grid? The GOP said it would “support measures to modernize the nation’s electricity grid” and “construct better and smarter buildings.” The Democrats said they would “install a smarter grid, build more efficient buildings.” Has anything been done to move the nation in the direction of either?
Platforms are a snapshot in time, not unlike poll results, and are obviously influenced significantly by the candidate at the top of the ticket. In 2008, with Sen. McCain as its nominee, the GOP platform advocated “a long-term energy tax credit equally applicable to all renewable power sources.” Fast forward four years – Gov. Romney announced last month that he would let the tax credit for wind energy expire at the end of this year.
One can argue about the reasons for the gridlock in Congress – there’s certainly blame enough for everyone. But no one can argue that four years ago the two major political parties agreed that the U.S. needed to reduce its dependence on foreign oil, increase its use of renewables, build smarter, more efficient buildings and upgrade its transmission grid. So take what you read in these new platforms with a grain of salt – we know from recent history that there’s always a chance that we’ll look back in four years and see 2012 as yet another year of high-rhetoric, low-action platforms.