Republicans are sweating in Washington, and it’s not just the heat. As early as this week, Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney could name his running mate, and there’s a lot riding on his choice.
Former Vice Presidents Al Gore and Dick Cheney both had outsize influences on the nation’s energy policies. As all eyes turn to Romney’s short list, here’s a look at where these candidates stack up on environmental and energy issues.
Rob Portman—Senator, Ohio
Senator Portman of Ohio, a former Bush-era budget director, trade representative, and chief lobbyist, has adopted many of the mainstream Republican positions on energy. He believes in expanding nuclear power, he voted no on providing incentives for alternate fuel development, and he opposed a cap and trade system to lower carbon emissions, a strategy for reducing greenhouse gas pollution by granting limited “credits” to industry for the right to emit carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
But there are some green upshots to Portman’s candidacy.
“He is actually quite pragmatic about energy,” says Kate Gordon, Director of Advanced Energy and Sustainability at the Center for the Next Generation. “He thinks we need a comprehensive national energy plan, and has said that we need to reduce dependence on imported energy sources.”
Portman also took a big step on energy efficiency at a time when some high-profile Republicans were trying to prevent school children from learning about its benefits. In 2011, Portman introduced the Energy Savings and Industrial Competiveness Bill, a bipartisan effort with Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, which aimed to incentivize the use of energy efficiency technologies in residential, commercial, and industrial sectors of our economy, while creating jobs, reducing pollution and slashing energy bills.
Bobby Jindal—Governor, Louisiana
Bobby Jindal, the two-term Governor of Louisiana, may be a tantalizing choice for Governor Romney. Jindal is a Rhodes scholar and a Roman Catholic with strong support from Evangelical voters and strict social conservatives. On the environment, Jindal couldn’t be more conservative.
As governor, he signed a law that allows for the teaching of creationism in public schools. He vetoed a bill that called for developing sustainability programs for Louisiana’s saltwater and freshwater fish resources.
Although he was praised by many for his response in the wake of the BP oil disaster, Jindal actually paved the way for the crisis when he pushed to increase offshore drilling along the U.S. coast and in the Gulf of Mexico.
In February 2006, while serving in the U.S. House of Representatives, Jindal introduced the Deep Ocean Energy Resources Act, which would have opened the entire U.S. coastline to offshore drilling. When that didn’t fly, he supported the more limited Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act, which opened 8.3 million acres of the delicate Gulf to oil rigs.
Jindal was one of 20 governors to sign a 2010 letter urging Congress leaders to stop the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gas emissions, arguing that these regulations damage the ability of U.S. companies to compete in a global market.
Tim Pawlenty—Former Governor, Minnesota
Pawlenty’s record on energy can only be described as…curious.
During his tenure as governor of Minnesota, he was a darling of environmentalists, advocating for sound energy policy that reduced carbon emissions and incentivized renewable energy. He successfully pushed for legislation in Minnesota that would require 25 percent of electricity generation to come from renewable resources by 2025.
In 2007, he signed the “Next Generation Energy Act,” which required increased efficiency by utilities, bolstered investments in renewable power, and decreased Minnesota’s greenhouse gas emissions. He even recorded an ad on behalf of the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), advocating for a carbon cap and trade system.
When officially seeking the Republican nomination in 2011, however, he did a complete about-face. “His policies were really forward thinking,” says Kate Gordon. “But after he became a national political player he started disavowing all of them.”
Indeed, at the first Republic presidential debate last year, Pawlenty issued an apology for his previous position on cap and trade, calling it “a mistake.” EDF has since removed the video of him from their website.
“Pawlenty governed like John Muir and he’s running like ExxonMobil,” Daniel J. Weiss of the Center for American Progress told InsideEPA.com in 2011.
Marco Rubio—Senator, Florida
Rubio is something of a last minute favorite for Vice President. He is young, charismatic, and beloved by the Tea Party. He’s also Cuban American, which some pundits believe could help split the Latino vote from Obama.
On energy issues, Rubio is a mixed bag. He has publicly opposed cap and trade initiatives, expressed support for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and voted to prohibit the EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions.
However, in 2006, he published a book called Innovative Solutions for Florida’s Future, in which he advocated for such policies as allowing hybrid cars to drive in HOV lanes, creating loans for public institutions that prioritize energy efficiency, and developing Florida’s solar power initiatives. “None of these have found their way into his national policies,” says Gordon.
Under Mitt Romney's tenure, oil drilling would expand, and production tax credits for wind energy companies would end. Word on the street is that Romney is even considering tapping an American Petroleum Institute exec to become his chief of staff.
But what about Romney’s possible second fiddle? Whoever ends up holding that office could have a serious impact on national energy, if he chose to take up the mantle, Gordon argues.
“What will change the conversation is serious leadership from the White House from whoever gets elected,” Gordon told TakePart. “They will need to try to overcome the unbelievable politicization of this issue. You need a serious advocate in that office in order to affect the conversation.”
From an ecological perspective, which would-be Romney V.P. choice would you like to see on the ticket?