They’re out. Both dominant national political parties wrapped up their platforms, or written statements of their policy positions and goals, over the past few weeks during their respective political conventions.
Both the Republican and the Democrat party faithful highlighted energy policy and environmental issues in their platforms. That’s not unusual. But take note what they say, and how it compares to their platforms written four years ago.
Some things sound the same and some are very, very different. And while both parties seek some identical things — energy independence, energy efficiency, a balance of energy development and environmental protection — the devil, as always, is in the details.
Let the platform wars begin.
Both parties seek energy independence and emphasize the development and use of domestic natural resources. Both call for an all-of-the-above approach to domestic energy development.
The Democrats call for a “sustainable energy independent future” and an all-of-the-above policy. The platform names the fuel sources wanted in the mix, “including wind, solar, biofuels, geothermal, hydropower, nuclear, oil, clean coal, and natural gas.” The Democrats also call for building a “clean energy economy” with extension of incentives: “It’s not enough to invent clean energy technologies here; we want to make them here and sell them around the world.”
Different in 2008: With gas prices spiking, Democrats used much stronger language regarding the “tyranny” of oil: “We will break our addiction to foreign oil.”
With a nod to Canada and Mexico and their energy reserves, the GOP praises the abundant U.S. energy resources, “tapped and untapped, traditional and alternative,” and calls for an “all-of-the-above diversified approach.” The party’s platform emphasizes energy industry jobs and what it’ll do differently from the Obama administration: “Unlike the current Administration, we will not pick winners and losers in the energy marketplace.”
Different in 2008: More nods to protection of the environment. The GOP also predicted the end of fossil fuel use: “In the long run, American production should move to zero-emission sources, and our nation’s fossil fuel resources are the bridge to that emissions-free future.”
There’s a dramatic difference between the parties on this issue, based on their platforms. Unlike the Democrats, who label climate change a major threat, the GOP doesn’t even mention global climate change.
The Democrats affirm the science of climate change and call it “one of the biggest threats of this generation — an economic, environmental and national security catastrophe in the making.” The platform emphasizes the need for the U.S. to take lead on the issue internationally, and calls for reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions “through regulation and market solutions.”
Different in 2008: The platform used more dire language regarding climate change, calling it “the planet’s greatest threat,” and more explicitly detailed what the U.S. would do to lead on the issue internationally. The Democrats also called for a “market-based cap and trade system” and said “American can be earth’s best hope” to solve the issue.
The GOP doesn’t once use the terms climate change or global warming in its platform but does obliquely touch on the issue by addressing the value of science to review a policy’s cost and benefits. “This is especially important when the causes and long-range effects of a phenomenon are uncertain. We must restore scientific integrity to our public research institutions and remove political incentives from publicly funded research.” In another single sentence, Republicans say they won’t support any cap-and-trade legislation to throttle greenhouse gas emissions.
Different in 2008: The GOP, under a section labeled “Addressing Climate Change Responsibly,” acknowledged global climate change and suggested a global approach to solutions, although it emphasized those solutions shouldn’t burden the U.S. economy.
EPA and environmental regulations
While the Democrats provide unflinching support for Obama’s policies, the Republicans describe at length how they would stop or slow the EPA’s actions and denounce in several places the inappropriateness of activist regulators who go further than their legal mandate.
The Democrats call protection of the environment a top priority and tout Obama’s “significant strides” to cut pollution and advance public health, including carbon pollution limits for new fossil fuel-fired power plants and the development of vehicle fuel efficiency standards. “Pollutants like nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, particulate matter, and mercury are a threat to human health, and Democrats will continue to stand up to polluters in the interest of environmental and public health.”
Different in 2008: The platform proudly announces what is to come in a Democratic administration: “We will reinvigorate the Environmental Protection Agency so that we can work with communities to reduce air and water pollution and protect our children from environmental toxins, and never sacrifice science to politics.”
The GOP goes into detail about how it would halt the EPA and its “war on coal” and says private ownership guarantees environmental stewardship, “while the worst instances of environmental degradation have occurred under government control.” The Republicans would, among other things, stop the EPA’s “unwarranted” revocation of existing permits, calls for full transparency in environmental litigation, and support Congressional moves to halt EPA’s strengthening of greenhouse gas emission limits: “There is no place in regulatory agencies for activist regulators.” The GOP also gives a shout-out to the value of liberty: “The most powerful environmental policy is liberty . . . liberty must remain the core energy behind America’s environmental improvement.”
Different in 2008: The platform hammered more generally at “environmental extremism and regulatory blockades” in Washington, D.C., not directly at the EPA. With the then-high gas price, the Republicans put less emphasis on support for the coal industry and coal-fire power plants and greater focus on the support of new and expanded oil refineries.
Both parties pledge support for renewable energy, but have markedly different ways of promoting it. Democrats stay fuzzy on methods other than technology investment but back Obama’s renewable energy sourced-electricity goals, while the GOP primarily seeks a market-based solution.
The Democrats list renewables as a key part in their version of the all-of-the-above energy development approach, cite investment under the Obama administration of clean energy technologies that “have helped double the electricity we get from wind and solar” and tout Obama’s goal of 80 percent of U.S. electricity generated from “clean energy sources” by 2035.
Different in 2008: The Democrats, which now include oil and gas as part of their all-of-the-above plan, said in response to the “drill, baby, drill” cry, “we know we can’t drill our way to energy independence,” and instead called for renewable energy innovations, as well as the use of government procurement plans to provide incentives for the production of renewable energy.
The GOP calls for an aggressive development of renewable energy, “such as wind hydro, solar, biomass, geothermal, and tidal energy,” but calls for a “pathway toward a market-based approach” for renewable sources and, “partnerships between traditional energy industries and emerging renewable industries.”
Different in 2008: Republicans put on paper a much stronger call for renewable energy sources: “Alternative power sources must enter the mainstream.” The GOP also advocated a long-term tax credit for all renewable energy sources, something unmentioned in 2012.
While the GOP gets right to the point on hydraulic fracturing (Obama should calm fears and states should lead on regulations), the Democrats avoid directly addressing the topic, instead providing a general endorsement of Obama administration-proposed safeguards.
The Democrats don’t specifically mention hydraulic fracturing, but they do advocate for the development of natural gas: “Harnessing our natural gas resources needs to be done in a safe and responsible manner, which is why the Obama administration has proposed a number of safeguards to protect against water contamination and air pollution. “
Different in 2008: Number of times the Democrats specifically mention natural gas in their platform: Zero.
The GOP advocates for oil and natural gas development on federally owned and controlled lands, touts the ability of states to regulate those activities and demands federal streamlining of oil and gas pipelines. The Republicans slam Obama for not calming fears regarding hydraulic fracturing: “The current President has done nothing to disavow the scare campaign against hydraulic fracturing.”
Different in 2008: The Republicans placed greater emphasis on transportation and distribution of natural gas.