For Conservatives, “All of the Above” Means “No Clean Energy”

Bill Scher

Conservatives know that after eight years of keeping America dependent on oil, they can’t easily promote another Big Oil giveaway. So the message mantra around coastal drilling is “All of the Above.”

“All of the Above” is supposed to mean that we need to do “everything” in response to the gas price shock, and more drilling is just one thing among many, including support for coal, nuclear and renewable energy.

Funny thing is: that “All of the Above” list seems to sputter out for conservatives when it gets to renewable energy.

Today’s Tom Friedman column in the NY Times makes the point that long-term extensions of renewable energy tax credits would, “unlike offshore drilling,” have “immediate impact on America’s energy profile,” because many renewable energy projects cannot get private financing with the current short-term credits about to expire.

The conservative response from my bloggingheads.tv partner and Heritage Foundation blogger Conn Carroll? A “fact checking” claim that Friedman is wrong because, “According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA) wind and solar contribute a combined less than 1% to our nation’s energy needs. Whether or not Friedman’s favored alternative tax credits get passed will not change that fact in any significant way.”

Why wouldn’t the tax credits change that fact? Heritage does not say.

There’s a reason why renewable energy is stuck at 1% of our energy mix: no long-term energy policy in support of renewable energy. The Union of Concerned Scientists explains:

Unfortunately, the “on-again/off-again” status that has historically been associated with the PTC [renewable energy production tax credit] contributes to a boom-bust cycle of development that plagues the wind industry. The cycle begins with the wind industry experiencing strong growth in development around the country during the years leading up to the PTC’s expiration. Lapses in the PTC then cause a dramatic slow down in the implementation of planned wind projects. When the PTC is restored, the wind power industry takes time to regain its footing, and then experiences strong growth until the tax credits expire. And so on.

And as a report commissioned by the wind and solar energy industries shows: “over 116,000 U.S. jobs and nearly $19 billion in U.S. investment could be lost in just one year if renewable energy tax credits are not renewed by Congress.”

If Heritage is concerned that tax credits by themselves are not enough to lift the renewable energy industry off the ground (I know how much they hate cutting taxes on businesses), they could get behind the full Apollo Alliance plan of $30 billion of investment a year to create 3 million jobs generating clean energy and energy-efficiency.

But that would mean actually including clean energy in”all of the above.”

Even more telling, than this one “fact check” misfire, is the apoplectic conservative reaction to the “Gang of 10″ coastal drilling compromise.

I was concerned that congressional Democrats were caving by flirting with such a compromise (I have long chronicled the “Failures of Compromise,” the futile attempts by congressional leaders to appease conservative obstructionists that have marked this Congress.

However, by luck or design, the Gang of 10 compromise — which will also likely fail to become law — is serving to expose how disingenuous conservatives are when they say “all of the above,” and how deep they are in the pocket of Big Oil.

The compromise proposal would lift the ban on coastal drilling for Florida; allow Georgia, the Carolinas, and Virginia to do the same; while keeping the ban in place for the Pacific Coast and the northeast). But, the oil could only be sold in the U.S., not on the global market. Further, the plan would end tax giveaways to oil companies to invest $84 billion over 10 years towards clean energy and fuel-efficiency.

Sounds very “all of the above,” doesn’t it?

But the record profit-taking oil companies don’t want to pay their fair share in taxes. So conservatives are conveniently ignoring their own compromise-y “all of the above” rhetoric, to throw a fresh temper tantrum.

They’re lambasting the Gang of 10 as “selling out conservative, Republican ideals in the name of singing kumbaya with liberal Democrats,” “intend[ing] to pay for all this in part by raising taxes on . . . oil companies! The Sierra Club couldn’t have penned it better.” and “it might be worthwhile recalling the murderous Gang of Four, the Chinese communist leaders who directed the Cultural Revolution.”

While they have convinced themselves that “drill, drill, drill” is a political winner, the reality is that support for clean energy is stronger than support for coastal drilling. A new Gallup poll further confirms what I argued two weeks ago.

By snubbing a compromise that does both, because it doesn’t completely give away the store to Big Oil, is only showing voters how deep conservatives are in the Big Oil tank.

The fact is conservatives do not believe in “all of the above.” They believe in oil dependence.

In fact, it was at last year’s big conservative convention CPAC where I heard a featured speaker declare: “Energy Independence Is Not A Possible Option.” This is a dangerous pessimistic attitude that will harm both our planet and our pocketbooks.

Progressives may not want more coastal drilling (which would do nothing to lower prices), and progressives certainly want to greatly reduce our fossil fuel use and carbon emissions in the long-run.

But we are the ones who believe in “all of the above.” We just understand that oil, coal and nuclear are already represented in our energy mix. It’s clean energy that’s been missing.

That’s the choice that’s been denied us, to protect Big Oil from real competition.

And that’s where our policy needs to invest in if we are to have affordable energy options that won’t destroy our Earth.

More on conservative hypocrisy from David Roberts at Grist.

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