Natural gas represents America’s “energy revolution,” and the way to economic growth is to deregulate, according to Republican presidential candidate and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who unveiled his energy plan Tuesday during a speech in Pennsylvania.
Bush’s four-point plan would lift restrictions on exports of oil and natural gas; reduce “overregulation,” such as on fracking or coal power plants; allow states and tribes more say over their energy mix; and approve the Keystone XL pipeline, which he says has been “badly politicized.”
That is to say, three of the four tenets lift federal regulation in some way or another, while the fourth simply approves a fossil fuel infrastructure project.
Regulation “is repressing the ability for us to grow,” Bush said. And, truly, his plan is all in the name of economic growth.
Increased fracking will result in more jobs and more growth, he said, citing a Harvard Business School paper on energy. But unlike that paper, Bush’s plan makes no mention of renewable energy of any kind, even though renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, and hydro now account for half the new electricity generation in the United States. In more economic terms, solar accounted for one out of every 78 new jobs created nationwide last year.
But solar and wind are not the energy revolution; the energy revolution is fracking, according to Bush.
“We have, thus far, benefited from the energy revolution simply because Washington did not have time to quash it, but we will never know how many other innovations have been lost due to overregulation,” Bush’s campaign wrote in a Medium post.
In fact, the current laws making it difficult to export natural gas — which Bush wants to get rid of — may actually keep prices low for consumers and manufacturers. The U.S. Energy Information Administration found that a surge in the global natural gas supply would cause prices to rise “between 4 percent and 11 percent, on average, over [the EIA’s] current projections for the 2015 to 2040 period.”
It’s also worth considering how fracking has benefited in the United States from skirting environmental regulation. The so-called Halliburton Loophole, implemented during the George W. Bush presidency, exempts fracking companies from disclosing the chemicals they use, as long as they don’t use diesel. So fracking’s boom — while lowering the cost of natural gas — has also raised myriad environmental concerns, including groundwater contamination, earthquakes, and explosions. The practice has also proved difficult for localities to effectively regulate. After one town in Texas passed a ban on fracking, the state legislature passed a ban on banning fracking.
Bush announced his plan at Rice Energy, a shale gas company in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. “Your success makes environmentalists miserable,” he told Rice owners and employees gathered for the speech.
Meanwhile, renewable energy advocates say fossil fuels in general benefit from entrenched tax breaks, while wind and solar struggle for policies that will level the playing field.
Bush pointed at attempts to regulate methane — a greenhouse gas that can leak during natural gas extraction and processing — as one example of Washington’s overreach.
“Regulations need to be fixed,” he said. “You can always find the proper balance between the environmental good… and economic progress,” he said.
It’s true that there is a cost to transitioning to clean energy sources, but weighing the economic cost of the Clean Power Plan is not as simple as just tacking a little bit onto electricity bills. The cost of climate change, which congressional Republicans do not want to think about, is widely expected to be more than the cost of clean energy.
Bush rejects the mainstream science on climate change, and environmental groups were quick to shoot down his plan for its focus on fossil fuels.
“This dangerous energy plan isn’t ‘low energy’ or ‘high energy’ — it’s every type of ‘dirty energy,'” Sierra Club Political Director Khalid Pitts said. “This plan promises voters the world, but the truth is that the world is exactly what it would sacrifice to fatten the wallets of dirty energy conglomerates like Koch Industries–all while failing to tackle the moral imperative of the climate crisis and just days after Pope Francis made clear that this is one of the greatest challenges facing humanity.”
Ironically, Bush’s plan was announced on the same day new national poll results came out. The poll of likely voters found that 68 percent of conservative Republicans — support “taking action to accelerate the development and use of clean energy in the United States.” Overall, 84 percent of voters agreed with this approach.
More than three-quarters of GOP voters thought that accelerating the growth of clean energy would “create economic growth and jobs at home,” according to the poll, conducted on behalf of ClearPath, a conservative clean energy foundation.
Other GOP candidates have offered similar plans. Marco Rubio’s plan also calls for eliminating the oil export ban and for deregulation. Chris Christie, Lindsey Graham, and Bobby Jindal have all released full or partial plans describing a potential energy policy.