As Perry Picks An Energy-Environment Fight with Romney, We All Win


This Rick Perry video — which is really all about Mitt Romney — has caught some attention on the heels of a front page story by the Wall Street Journal raising the issue of Mitt Romney’s record on energy and environment issues. It’s not on the editorial page, mind you, but the less market-friendly news pages. This is a good thing, and wherever it leads, I do not believe the video can be shown, viewed or written about too often.

Mr. Romney finds himself needing to detach himself from these past positions on environmental issues without painting a target on his back for more accusations of flip-floppery. Otherwise, he must plainly state that voters should expect him to stick to his prior instincts on these issues.

This is too big a topic to pussyfoot around. The importance of Romney’s views on energy and his courting of environmental lobbyists — including a venture capitalist about to take the reins of what has become the world’s largest (and worst) VC slushy fund — cannot be overstated at this point.

This would be true even without Solyndra having exposed many voters to the growing fiscal disease in “green” industries, which is so typical and predictable that some of us foresaw it long ago.

Romney’s seeming embrace of the corrupt environmental lobby is made all the sadder by the fact that this country has a real opportunity for a spectacular revival with a domestic energy production boom. But such a change will require a leader with both strong vision and the will to stand up to anti-business, anti-energy extremists.

Considering the legacy of absurd and often outright offensive “comprehensive energy legislation” that passes Congress every few years and the relative executive stewardship of the Reagan through Obama presidencies, it is abundantly clear that this change will only come about through a President with better instincts about energy and the proper role of government than our current leaders possess. This will require particular knowledge about the role of energy in the economy and in liberty.

If time is an issue, not to be flippant, but each Republican presidential candidate can get a season or two of “Dallas” to watch on the campaign bus. Better yet, drive that bus to towns where the power plant is now a victim of a President who has waged war on abundant affordable energy (IER has identified them, even though the legal departments of too many energy producers warn against publishing this information for fear of upsetting the administration that, um, is trying to off them anyway).

While there, GOP candidates should take the time to listen to someone who who can explain that none of the “sustainable” energy production methods favored by progressives can replace the capacity and cost-effectiveness of much-reviled coal plants (there are a couple of candidates who already know this, but we can be under no illusions that this is universally shared knowledge).

These candidates should continue by heading to places such as southeast Ohio or most anywhere in Appalachia, where residents have few prospects for wealth creation except underground coal and gas deposits but they find their access to those resources under assault by intrusive bureaucrats. They must take note that this trend is part of the ongoing War on the West, a cycle of government-induced poverty that could be easily remedied with a simple no-cost “stimulus” — lifting extraneous burdens from energy producers.

The GOP presidential field would also do well to remember energy boom times and the role one played in the rebound from Carter’s first term, then to consider the changes needed to roar out of this second Carter term the same way. The United States possesses the world’s largest combined oil, coal and gas resources; therefore, our energy woes stem not from any shortage of raw materials but merely from restrictive policy.

Furthermore, the “climate change” record must be cemented in its proper place in the energy debate. The taxpayer-owned records that we at the Competitive Enterprise Institute and American Tradition Institute are working hard to ensure find their way into the public domain, through our transparency campaigns — from UVa, NASA, NOAA, DoE, EPA, and just wait to you hear what we’ve learned about the IPCC — can make policymakers’ lives much less contentious when it comes to the media pressure/assault they will face from the green industry faithful next year.

Also, candidates for the White House must see the advantage in a more information-rich policy debate, and therefore better-informed electorate, in two ways — first, as a hedge against a nominee winning higher office, then giving in to pressure from environmental lobbyists. The recidivism rate among pols with this kind of history is something on the order of 100%, but that trend must be reversed in 2013. Second, and more charitably, getting all of this information out into the public’s attention is a way to help a candidate complete a smooth transition on these issues with a simple explanation that a better scientific understanding of climate change and its relationship (or lack thereof) to traditional energy production methods is a compelling reason to reverse course on green subsidies and costly regulations.

It is ultimately beneficial to pick this fight and have this discussion this early in the presidential race. Our government’s anti-growth policies must be stopped and reversed, then a radically different course must be plotted. We will then reap the economic, social, and national security rewards of robust domestic energy production. But this will not come without a fight, so it’s good to see candidates like Rick Perry starting one.