Here’s a factoid that people following the politics of energy may find interesting, but certainly not shocking: Of the top 25 CO2 emitting Congressional districts in 2009, 22 were Republican. That’s according to data released by the Center for Global Development, which tracked emissions from 60,000 power plants in the U.S. and around the world.
The top five CO2 emitting districts were all Republican, with percentage of fossil-based electricity in those areas ranging between 91 percent and 100 percent.
Given this trend, it’s not surprising that the National Republican platform on energy is almost entirely about supporting more fossil fuels — particularly coal — while completely ignoring the threat of climate change. The platform was just released this morning:
Coal is a low-cost and abundant energy source with hundreds of years of supply. We look toward the private sector’s development of new, state-of-the-art coal-fired plants that will be low-cost, environmentally responsible, and efficient. We also encourage research and development of advanced technologies in this sector, including coal-to-liquid, coal gasification, and related technologies for enhanced oil recovery. The current Administration — with a President who publicly threatened to bankrupt anyone who builds a coal-powered plant — seems determined to shut down coal production in the United States, even though there is no cost-effective substitute for it or for the hundreds of thousands of jobs that go with it as the nation’s largest source of electricity generation.
We will end the EPA’s war on coal and encourage the increased safe development in all regions of the nation’s coal resources, the jobs it produces, and the affordable, reliable energy that it provides for America. Further, we oppose any and all cap and trade legislation.
In fact, leading center-right economists determined in 2011 that “Coal-Fired Power Plants Have Air Pollution Damages Larger Than Their Value Added.” Factoring in the health and environmental impacts of burning coal would add “close to 17.8 cents/KWh of electricity generated.”
And a leading international energy economist, Fatih Birol of the International Energy Agency, recently warned that continuing use of coal and other carbon-intensive resources would have dramatic consequences: “As each year passes without clear signals to drive investment in clean energy, the ‘lock-in’ of high-carbon infrastructure is making it harder and more expensive to meet our energy security and climate goals,” he said.
In other words, we don’t have much time. We urgently need to start making smart decisions about cutting our use of fossil fuels. But warnings from some of the smartest scientists and economists on the planet don’t have much influence on the Republican energy plan.
The Republican platform parallels Mitt Romney’s energy plan released last week, which focuses very heavily on fossil fuel development — mostly oil.
However, polls continue to show that a vast majority of Americans support transitioning away from fossil fuels, support action on climate change, and are willing to put a price on carbon in order to reduce emissions. That could be one reason why Obama is beating Romney in polls on energy issues. According to a new Washington Post/ABC News poll, 49 percent of Americans believe Obama has a better energy plan than Romney. This follows a USA Today/Gallup poll that showed Obama with a 13-point lead over Romney on energy.
In an interview released this week, Al Gore summed up the feeling of many onlookers after the Romney campaign and the Republican party released their energy plans to continue unfettered use of fossil fuels: “If the Romney-Ryan ticket were to win … I would fear for the future of our environmental policy…. I would be very concerned about what they do.”