Energy Production an Election Battleground

The Democrat and Republican parties tend to differ greatly on the best approach to energy production and use. However, just four years since the GOP was chanting “Drill, baby, drill,” and the Dems were howling against the Bush Administration’s approach to global warming and pushing aggressive renewable energy goals, the sides have managed to find more common ground in Election 2012.

A September 5 article in the Houston Chronicle, headlined “Democratic Party platform touts natural gas, tones down climate change talk,” reports:

In the party platform they unveiled [September 4], Democrats draw a distinction between “Big Oil” and “cheap, abundant natural gas” they tout as “helping to bring jobs and industry back to the United States.”

At the same time, the Democratic platform tones down its assessment of the severity of global warming and what the United States should be doing to arrest it — a big turnaround from four years ago, when the party warned that “the epochal, man-made threat to the planet” of climate change had to be halted.

The changes reflect two economic realities:

The recent surge in domestic production of natural gas from dense rock formations across the country  is bringing jobs to Ohio, Pennsylvania and other battleground states.

At the same time, the ailing economy nationwide has made broad initiatives to combat global warming — including cap-and-trade programs that would put a price on carbon dioxide emissions–a tough sell in the nation’s capital.

Both Republicans and Democrats have linked economic gains to domestic gas production.

The GOP hasn’t moved as much in its energy platform as the Democrats have, but the party’s views on the issue have “evolved.”

An excellent analysis of the competing platform in the Casper Star-Tribune – headlined “Where do the Dems and GOP stand on energy and the environment?” – notes:

Both the Republican and the Democrat party faithful highlighted energy policy and environmental issues in their platforms. That’s not unusual. But take note what they say, and how it compares to their platforms written four years ago.

Some things sound the same and some are very, very different. And while both parties seek some identical things — energy independence, energy efficiency, a balance of energy development and environmental protection — the devil, as always, is in the details.

The gap between their views may be smaller, but the “details” illustrate that the sides still differ greatly in their overall approach.

What does this mean for energy development in general and the AEC industry in particular? A lot depends on who wins in November.

The emergence of plentiful natural gas reserves appears to have softened the Democrats’ push for renewable energy sources such as wind and solar, but these remain a critical element of the party’s energy approach.

Republicans, likewise, seek to end reliance on foreign oil and strive for a “sustainable energy future.” However, as in 2008, their timetable is not as ambitious.

Energy is a major issue, not only in the 2012 election, but in the fate of the AEC industry’s rebound in 2012. Our 2013 Guide to the U.S. AEC Markets delves deeper into the issue and offers our views on which elements of the market will thrive and which will struggle. To pre-order the publication at a discount, click on the icon at the top right and pay with your major credit card.

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