Low Energy: First Dem Debates Disappoint With Lack of Energy Discussion

After weeks of buildup, the first two Democratic presidential debates this week in Miami featured little discussion of the 20 candidates’ views on climate and energy policy, disappointing both those who favor an all-of-the-above energy approach that has seen the United States catapult into a global energy leader and the ”Keep it in the Ground” activists.

In spite of this lack of a vigorous energy debate, there were a few moments that provided at least some insight into how some of the top-tier candidates might approach the matter should they be elected president:

  • Bernie Sanders promised to “take on” the fossil fuel industry. Although he did not provide details as to what exactly that entails, he has previously pledged to “ban fracking nationwide.”
  • Washington Gov. Jay Inslee – who’s staked his entire candidacy on climate issues – stated he’s “proud of standing up for unions,” despite the fact labor by in large has repeatedly rejected the “Green New Deal” – types of policies he’s pledged to enact if elected.
  • Kamala Harris voiced support for the Green New Deal, despite the fact she refused to vote for it when it was brought to the Senate floor in late March.
  • Former Vice President Joe Biden explained that the United States is only responsible for 15 percent of emissions and whoever is elected will need to be able to “corral” the rest of the countries in reducing the remaining 85 percent of global emission.
  • Elizabeth Warren said climate change is the biggest threat to national security. She previously blamed the Trump administration for New England importing Russian liquefied natural gas, despite her own opposition to needed pipeline infrastructure
  • Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper described the policies he implemented there to reduce emissions, including “working with the oil and gas industry” to create “the first methane regulations in the country.”

Of all of the candidates in either of the debates, only Hickenlooper came close to bringing the role that the oil and natural gas industry is playing in reducing emissions into the discussion.

He continued:

“And beyond that, I think we’ve got to recognize that only by bringing people together, businesses, nonprofits — and we can’t demonize every business. We’ve got to bring them together to be part of this thing. Because ultimately, if we’re not able to do that, we will be doomed to failure. We have no way of doing this without bringing everyone together.”

And as a result, he was immediately derided by the KIITG crowd – including Josh Fox, director of the discredited Gasland films:

With four hours of debate time between the two events, one would think that one of the most often discussed issues among the pundits leading up to the debate – including those on NBC, the host station – would have received more airtime (less than 20 minutes was spent on energy).

Thankfully, there’s still plenty of time – 493 days between the second debate and election day – to hear the candidates’ opinions on the matter.

The next set of debates will be held in Michigan July 30-31 and will be hosted by CNN. For the sake of expediency, we’re offering a few questions for consideration:

  • Infrastructure has been a major discussion in recent years, yet KIITG opposition and policies continue to block crucial pipelines from delivering emissions-reducing natural gas – particularly in places like New York and New England, where a shipment of Russian gas was delivered during the 2018 polar vortex. A recent Manhattan Institute report explains that such blockades are resulting in the use of higher emissions fuels during peak demand. How would you address this issue?
  • It is widely accepted that the increased use of natural gas has enabled the United States to lead the world in reducing emissions, and is a reliable source of fuel in places where renewables cannot keep up with demand. In fact, cities around the United States are evaluating how to reduce their carbon footprint without harming the economy. What role do you see natural gas playing in our country’s continued effort to address climate change?
  • Many of you have pledged to ban fracking on federal lands if elected president – a move that would have significant economic impacts in places like New Mexico. How do you propose to replace the budget shortfalls, that includes crucial revenues for schools, and job losses that would result from a halt to federal leasing?
  • Every candidate has talked about fighting for the middle class and finding ways to make daily necessities more affordable for families. Studies have shown that policies prohibiting the use of natural gas result in increased costs to families for electricity, home heating and cooling, and transportation. Likewise, EIA data show states with the worst infrastructure problems, such as those in the Northeast, are already paying far higher electricity rates than the rest of the country. Would you, as president, support policies that restrict natural gas use or infrastructure when doing so would increase costs for America’s working families?
  • All of you, as candidates, have spoken in favor of increasing support for our nation’s unions. For the past several years, American labor has benefitted greatly from the work generated by the oil and gas industry. In fact, the president of LIUNA spoke out strongly in support of the oil and natural gas industry for this very reason. What would you say to those laborers who are receiving steady, good paying jobs without having to leave their communities in pivotal swing states like Pennsylvania and Ohio? 
  • The United States has transformed from a nation dependent on other countries to meet our growing energy demand to one that is now supplying the world. This “tectonic change” has reinvigorated U.S. manufacturing to produce the products we rely on for our health, safety and enjoyment. What is your vision for U.S. oil and natural gas domestic production and exports should you be elected president?

EID will continue to follow the candidates closely as we move closer to the election, and they have the opportunity to roll out more of their policy plans and discuss their positions in detail, rather than platitudes. And, in case you missed it, be sure to read up on which candidates have already taken the “Keep it in the Ground” lane so far in the race for 2020:

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