By Keith Reid
This presidential campaign season seems to have dragged on longer than a president actually spends in office. An exaggeration, of course, but even as we head into the political conventions in July the nominees are still not absolutely locked in place. However, this represents a good time to take a look at the energy policy positions from these candidates that might impact motor fuels marketing and retailing.
We generally have to rely on public statements to get this perspective, and since many of these are campaign related they should be considered with an honest degree of cynicism. So, what follows are the public statements the current candidates have made relative to climate change policy, biofuels and hydraulic fracking for oil and natural gas.
This is currently limited to Donald Trump (likely Republican nominee) and Hillary Clinton (likely Democrat nominee). While Bernie Sanders remains in the race as this is being produced, his only real shot at being the nominee would involve Hillary Clinton being indicted for her current email problems. Even many Republicans who feel she is guilty and should be indicted, are skeptical that such a thing would actually occur. In general though, for Sanders you can take Clinton’s views on an issue and move to the left. In an indictment scenario it’s also possible, though unlikely, that a Joe Biden or Elizabeth Warren might be pushed as a substitute nominee. However, the blowback from Sanders’ supporters would seem to make that a questionable political choice.
An economically aggressive, UN-focused climate change policy has been the cornerstone of the current administration. This approach fairly quickly becomes economically painful to Western nations if carried through, and for motor fuels relatively quickly evolves into a focus on zero-emission solutions such as electric or hydrogen (versus an “all of the above” energy policy).
Alternatives to this approach range from dismissing climate change as a notable threat, to accepting climate change and human influence but approaching the problem from less costly avenues.
Polling indicates that the further right a person is the less inclined he or she is to see climate change as a significant threat (and certainly not one that requires any notable disruption of an economy), and the further left the more inclined toward the aggressive eradication of fossil fuels. On the special-interest front, significant money can be found to sway a candidate in either direction.
“Well, I think the climate change is just a very, very expensive form of tax. A lot of people are making a lot of money. I know much about climate change. I’ve received environmental awards. And I often joke that this is done for the benefit of China. Obviously, I joke. But this is done for the benefit of China, because China does not do anything to help climate change. They burn everything you could burn; they couldn’t care less. They have very –you know, their standards are nothing. But they — in the meantime, they can undercut us on price. So it’s very hard on our business.”
Jan. 18, 2016, Fox & Friends Interview
Hillary’s plan is designed to deliver on the pledge President Obama made at the Paris climate conference last December—without relying on climate deniers in Congress to pass new legislation. Her plan will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 30 percent in 2025 relative to 2005 levels and put the country on a path to cut emissions more than 80 percent by 2050. Her approach will catalyze new investment and economic opportunity across the country, create hundreds of thousands of new jobs, reduce energy bills and save families money, make our country more secure, and protect our families and communities from pollution.
Clinton Campaign Website, as of June 15.
Since the primaries start with the Iowa caucuses, renewable fuels (most specifically ethanol) are a major, early campaign issue and one where support is seen as being advantageous to any politician. Interestingly, Ted Cruz won Iowa with a campaign that did not support government involvement with ethanol. Obviously the Renewable Fuel Standard is a significant issue for the motor fuels industry.
I believe the United States can and must be the clean energy super power for the 21st century. China and other competitors are already racing ahead with big bets on renewables. Yet there are still some here in America–even candidates for President– who want to keep the deck stacked for the fuels of the past. They support wasteful subsidies for oil and gas, block investments in new clean technologies, and even deny the science of climate change.
The Renewable Fuel Standard can continue to be a powerful tool to spur the development of advanced biofuels and expand the overall contribution that renewable fuels make to our national fuel supply. But we also can’t ignore significant changes to the energy landscape since the RFS was expanded in 2007. We have to get the RFS back on track in a way that provides investors with the certainty they need, protects consumers, improves access to E15, E85, and biodiesel blends, and effectively drives the development of cellulosic and other advanced biofuels.
Hillary Clinton, guest columnist, The Gazette (Iowa) May 28, 2015
As complied at America’s Renewable Future:
Donald Trump spoke in favor of the Renewable Fuel Standard at the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition banquet in Des Moines (September 19, 2015)
Question: The federal Renewable Fuel Standard displaces Middle East oil with homegrown, domestic fuels. As President, will you support our national security with the Renewable Fuel Standard?
Mr. Trump: “Yes, and a very strong yes. There is no reason not to. We need it. We need every form we can get. Ethanol is terrific, especially with the new process. And I am totally in favor of ethanol 100-percent and I will support it.”
Natural gas production using a hydraulic fracturing process is much more of a contentious issue on the Democrat side than the Republican side. Republicans generally support the energy and economic bonanza that comes from this technology; while Democrats tend to be split between seeing the natural gas production aspect as an acceptable bridge fuel on the more moderate side, to simply another evil fossil fuel on the more extreme side. Our cheap oil and natural gas from fracking result in less price volatility and lower prices for the refined fuel products produced from that oil. It’s notable that the cheap oil aspect is often seen as a major downside of this technology among the environmental left.
But [Clinton and Sanders] want to absolutely knock out fracking. And you do that, you’re going to be back into the Middle East and we’re going to be begging for oil again. It’s not going to happen. Not with me.
We’re going to open it up. We’re going to be energy independent. We’re going to have all sorts of energy. We’re going to have everything you can think of, including solar.
And I know a lot about solar. The problem with solar: It’s very expensive. When you have a 30-year payback, that’s not exactly the greatest thing in the world. But I know a lot about solar. I have gone solar on occasion, but it a very, very expensive thing.
Wind is very expensive. I mean, wind, without subsidy, wind doesn’t work. You need massive subsidies for wind.
You know, I don’t support [fracking] when any locality or any state is against it, number one. I don’t support it when the release of methane or contamination of water is present. I don’t support it — number three — unless we can require that anybody who fracks has to tell us exactly what chemicals they are using.
So by the time we get through all of my conditions, I do not think there will be many places in America where fracking will continue to take place. And I think that’s the best approach, because right now, there places where fracking is going on that are not sufficiently regulated.
So first, we’ve got to regulate everything that is currently underway, and we have to have a system in place that prevents further fracking unless conditions like the ones that I just mentioned are met.
Democratic Flint, Mich., debate on March 6, 2016.