Six years ago, a sure path for a politician to get praise—and votes—was to call for massive restrictions on fossil fuel use.
In 2008, Barack Obama campaigned on a platform of ending “the tyranny of oil” and bankrupting coal companies, whose energy production would be replaced by promising green companies like Solyndra—a “true engine of economic growth” that was “leading the way toward a brighter and more prosperous future.” An imminent “Peak Oil” disaster was viewed as a certainty. Democrats ran successfully on a platform of cap and trade, bolstered by the apocalyptic and unchallenged predictions of movies and media like Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth.
Things have certainly changed. Today, Democrats in contentious races are not only lessening their opposition to fossil fuels, they are competing to take positions that are more pro-fossil fuels than Republicans.
In Kentucky, Alison Grimes claims to be more pro-coal than incumbent Mitch McConnell, one of the leaders in defeating the cap and trade bill.
In Louisiana, Democratic incumbent Mary Landrieu claims to be more pro-fossil fuels than challenger Bill Cassidy, who himself supports both hydraulic fracturing and construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline and says he wants to “promote natural gas as a transportation fuel.”
Virtually no one with an election to win is opposing the Keystone XL Pipeline. The opposition’s longtime biggest backer, billionaire Tom Steyer, has run exactly zero anti-Keystone ads this election and is bankrolling pro-Keystone candidates.
Conventional wisdom says this pro-fossil fuel trend is ominous. The UN’s latest report on fossil fuels’ allegedly catastrophic long-term climate impacts, with authoritative-sounding claims about “95% certainty” and “no ambiguity” because “science has spoken,” says we are trading the future for a few extra oil dollars in the present.
But what if Americans’ views are far more level-headed and reality-based than these catastrophists?
Since just 2008, for example, we have run into oil, not out of it, thanks to human ingenuity. While conducting research for my forthcoming book, The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels, I found that every indicator of human well-being is improving, from life expectancy to individual income to nourishment to access to clean water to safety from climate. The catastrophists rarely acknowledge these benefits or the failure of solar and wind to provide any semblance of reliable energy—and they certainly do not acknowledge their own track record of failed predictions and gross exaggeration.
Americans are right to demand politicians who will support crucial fossil fuel projects, whether coal exports, shale energy or new pipeline capacity.
But be careful whom you vote for. Saying and being pro-fossil fuels are not the same thing.
Here’s the most important litmus test: A candidate is not pro-fossil fuels if they support President Obama’s plan to cap greenhouse gasses, because that is a cap on all fossil fuel usage.
Thus, most Democrats’ claims to fossil fuels support—such as Grimes’s and Landrieu’s—are disingenuous. Here’s my question to them: Will you publicly denounce Harry Reid and President Obama’s stances on this issue—and if you don’t, then isn’t your rhetoric more pandering than principle?
In 2012, Grimes publicly campaigned for an openly anti-fossil fuel Obama over pro-fossil-fuel Romney, who pledged to stop the assault on coal. If she supported Obama, knowing his agenda, how much does she actually believe in coal?
And here’s the final question to everyone else campaigning on a fossil fuels platform: Can you put forward a positive energy vision that inspires and reassures? It’s easy to criticize but Republicans, with the support of Democrats, need to put forward a compelling case for why using more fossil fuels is the right thing to do. Because it is.
Vote for fossil fuels.