Republican platform's energy, environment planks no surprise

Nick Snow
Washington Editor

WASHINGTON, DC, Sept. 3 -- Republicans adopted a 2008 national campaign platform on Sept. 1 that included a call to "aggressively increase our nation's energy supply in an environmentally responsible way . . . through a comprehensive strategy that meets both short and long-term needs."

"No amount of wishing or hoping can suspend the laws of supply and demand. Leading economists agree that any actions that will increase future energy supplies will lead to lower energy prices today," the platform continued in its section named Energy Independence and Security.

The following section, Environmental Protection, began by noting that increasing domestic energy supplies and decreasing long-term demand for oil would put the US in a position to address the climate change issue "and continue our longstanding responsibility for stewardship over the environment."

The two sections reiterated points that congressional Republicans have raised for months, and which US President George W. Bush mentioned during a Sept. 2 briefing about Hurricane Gustav's possible impacts on Gulf Coast oil and gas production, transmission, and refining operations.

"It's a little early to come up with a solid assessment. There are some encouraging signs," Bush said. US Energy Secretary Samuel W. Bodman will stay in touch with Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and leaders in other states "to help assess what took place and what needs to happen," he added.

'More energy, not less'
"One thing is certain: When Congress comes back, they have to understand that we need more domestic energy, not less. One place to find it is offshore America, lands that have been taken off the books, so to speak, by congressional law. Now, they need to give us a chance to find more oil and gas here at home. I'd much rather American consumers buy gasoline produced from American oil than foreign oil. I'd rather our dollar stay at home than go overseas," the president continued.

The platform which delegates attending the 2008 Republican National Convention adopted in St. Paul on Sept. 1 stated in its energy plank that increasing domestic production and reducing excessive reliance on imports would bring down high gasoline and diesel fuel costs, create more jobs for American workers and enhance US national security.

"In the long run, American production should move to zero-emission sources, and our nation's fossil fuels are the bridge to that emissions-free future," it added.

It supported "accelerated exploration, drilling, and development in America" not only from new oilfields on the US Outer Continental Shelf but also onshore in Montana, North Dakota, and Alaska. It noted that the Green River basin in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming "offers recoverable shale oil for development, and most of it is on federal lands."

It also supported increasing refining capacity and, with sensitivity to environmental concerns, an expedited permitting process.

"Any legislation to increase domestic exploration, drilling, and production must minimize any protracted legal challenges that could unreasonably delay or preclude actual production. We oppose any efforts that would permanently block access to the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge," it said.

Nuclear, alternatives, coal
The platform's energy plank called nuclear energy "the most reliable zero carbon emissions source of energy that we have" and said that Republicans would pursue dramatic increases in its domestic use.

"As new plants are constructed using the highest safety and operation standards, the nation's industrial and manufacturing base will be rejuvenated. The labor force will expand, with nearly 15,000 jobs created for every new nuclear plant built, and those workers will lead the nation away from its dependence on foreign oil," it said.

It also backed a long-term energy tax credit which would apply equally to all renewable power sources including geothermal and hydropower as well as solar and wind power.

It supported modernization of the domestic electrical grid and said that Republicans "will work to unleash innovation so entrepreneurs can develop technologies for a more advanced and robust [US] transmission system."

The plank said that while alternatives will shape the US energy future, coal remains a strategic national resource, which must play a major role. It backed coal-to-liquids and gasification technologies, and investment in development and deployment of carbon capture and storage techniques.

"We firmly oppose efforts by Democrats to block the construction of new coal-fired power plants. No strategy for reducing energy costs will be viable without a commitment to continued coal production and utilization," it maintained.

The energy plank's production segment said that more needs to be done to extract more natural gas domestically and make it more of a motor vehicle transportation option. It also called for increased energy cooperation with Canada and Mexico, "including proven oil reserves and vast, untapped Canadian hydroelectric generation."

Demand reduction steps
In its segment dealing with reductions in fossil fuel demand, the plank called for more aggressive applications of energy efficiency measures, and development of alternative fuels. "We must also produce more vehicles that operate on electricity and natural gas, both to reduce demand for oil and cut [carbon dioxide] emissions," it said.

Environmental protection
The environmental protection plank called for "measured and responsible steps" to reduce environmental impacts from "the same human economic activity that has brought freedom and opportunity to billions [but which] has also increased the amount of carbon in the atmosphere."

It said that in the short term, Republicans would rely on new technologies to reduce environmental impacts. But it also warned that "innovation must not be hamstrung by Washington bickering, regulatory briar patches, or obstructionist lawyers.

"Empowering Washington will only lead to unintended consequences and unimagined economic and environmental pain; instead, we must unleash the power of scientific know-how and competitive markets."

The environmental plank called for greater cooperation with other countries, including China and India, in dealing with global climate change, and proposed a climate prize "for scientists who solve the challenges of climate change. Honoraria of many millions of dollars would be a small price for technological developments that eliminate our need for [gasoline]-powered cars or abate atmospheric carbon."

It called US progress toward cleaner air and water "a major accomplishment of the American people. By balancing environmental goals with economic growth and job creation, our diverse economy has made possible the investment needed to safeguard natural resources, protect endangered species and create healthier living conditions…. That progress can continue if [it is] grounded in sound science, long-term planning and a multiuse approach to resources."

Democratic leaders did not comment on the Republican platform's energy and environment planks specifically. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) criticized Bush's comments at the Sept. 2 news briefing.

"For too long, the president's and Republicans' 'drill only' energy policies have reflected the demands of Big Oil. The New Direction Congress is crafting a comprehensive energy strategy that will provide relief for consumers, end our dependence on foreign oil, create millions of jobs, and grow our economy," she said.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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