Energy Policy at the Party Conventions


[author: Allison F. Kassir]

What a difference four years makes in energy policy. In 2008, the Republican presidential nominee, John McCain, had supported a cap and trade approach to reduce carbon emissions, and the party platform called for "technology-driven, market based solutions that will decrease emissions,….mitigate the impact of climate change" while delegates chanted "Drill baby, drill." At the 2008 convention, the Democratic party platform referenced the "tyranny of oil" and vowed to "lead to defeat the epochal, man-made threat to the planet: climate change." Since then, the bankruptcy of Solyndra, the proposed development of the Keystone XL pipeline, and the domestic boom in natural gas production have changed the energy landscape.

Democrats now embrace the "all of the above" energy strategy, and recognize that fossil fuels play a role in our energy future, even containing a brief reference to clean coal. The Democratic platform, which once focused on increasing percentages of electricity from renewable sources, has broadened those sources to electricity derived from "clean energy," which includes renewables, nuclear, and potentially natural gas. The party platform still refers to climate change "as one of the biggest threats of this generation" but stops short of the dramatic language of 2008 and calls for "smart policies that lead to greater growth in clean energy generation."

The Republican platform now specifically opposes "any and all cap and trade legislation," and supports "the cost-effective development of renewable energy," emphasizing allowing the "free market and the public's preferences determine the industry outcomes," rather than dictating a specific policy approach. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney opposes extending the wind production tax credit and supports creating "a level playing field on which all sources of energy can compete on their merits." The Republican party platform continues to place heavy emphasis on developing domestic fossil-fuel resources.

While some of the rhetoric may have softened, key differences in approach to energy policy remain. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), who will become the top Democrat on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee in 2013, observed at the convention that elections give "an opportunity for renewal." We will see after November.


DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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