Jim Geraghty of NRO’s Campaign Spot blog notes a survey that show that global warming is a major political issue in New Hampshire. While much of the global warming issue is alarmist hype, that hype has sunk in. However, even for global warming skeptics the necessity for a smarter energy policy is clear. We can’t live off of fossil fuels forever, and whether the days of “peak oil” will arrive in one year or 100, it will happen some day.
The usual conservative answer is that the market will decide what technology becomes the fuel of tomorrow. Which is all fine and true, but people want some kind of plan now. We have the problem of needing fuel, yet having key fuel sources being in hands of places that are unstable or hostile. The reality is that our dependence on Middle Eastern, African, and Venezuelan oil is a problem of national security, and the Republicans are not sufficiently serious on how we will deal with this problem.
The next answer is to boost domestic production. That’s all fine and good, but that still isn’t enough. We can expand our percentage of domestic oil, but we can’t insulate ourselves from the world oil market. We can’t produce enough domestic oil to meet our needs, and countries like China and India expand, the demand for oil will keep pushing prices up regardless.
Geraghty suggests a couple of policy stances that will help the GOP on this issue:
I’m a big believer that the Republican candidate ought to have something to say on global warming and carbon emissions beyond “the science isn’t clear” and “the market will take care of this.” Find some deserving target of environmental scorn and pledge to crack down on polluters; turn environmental protection into a law-and-order issue. Mock the Democrats’ hypocrisy on this issue. Promise to build wind turbines off the coast of Ted Kennedy’s Nantucket estate. Point out that the GOP wants to finance innovation while the Democrats want to tax energy.
That last sentence is key. What the GOP needs to do is back a 21st Century energy policy. The best analogy is the stock market: you’d be an idiot to hold all your money in one stock. Right now our portfolio is almost entirely based on oil, with a few alternative holdings. What we need is a diversified energy portfolio. Ethanol is one solution (although it’s economically inefficient, it’s politically popular). Biodiesel is one. Wind power is one. Hydroelectric power is another.
But there’s one issue that could significantly impact America’s energy independence, and that’s nuclear energy. The GOP needs to get behind the policy of removing the governmental roadblocks to safe, clean nuclear energy. It’s fundamentally conservative in that it involves removing governmental barriers to private enterprise. It’s also environmentally conscious in that modern nuclear technologies produce minimal waste and product significant amounts of power. As this excellent book points out, there is a strong case that nuclear energy needs to be a key part of America’s 21st Century energy agenda.
There isn’t a “magic bullet” to fix all of our energy woes. Instead, the GOP needs to be aggressively pushing a package of reforms that includes expanding domestic sources of energy, pushing for more efficiency through tax credits and other incentives, and bolstering several different alternative energy sources and letting the market determine which ones work and which ones don’t.
There’s no reason why one can’t have solid conservative principles and still be environmentally conscious, and there is a real need for a more aggressive stance on environmental and energy issues by Republican candidates. Energy is a national security issue, and while the GOP doesn’t have to charge headlong into the politics of fear surrounding global warming, they do need to have a coherent and competitive energy and environmental agenda.
The “progressives” aren’t progressive on energy—they want more big-government solutions that will slow down the development of real alternatives. But in order to win on this issue, conservatives can’t be afraid to take a stand. Again, the GOP candidate who can get conservatives for conservation on their side will have an edge against those others who no real plan to preserve America’s energy independence and the environment at the same time.