Steve Leone, Associate Editor, RenewableEnergyWorld.com
December 05, 2011 | 15 Comments
New Hampshire, USA -- Arnold Schwarzenegger has always held an uncomfortable place in the Republican Party. His ascent from the silver screen to the Sacramento hot seat at first seemed Regeanesque. But these days, he's seen by many in his party as a traitor, as much for his personal failings as his inability to stay on message.
So maybe his op-ed in Sunday’s Washington Post carries little weight. But maybe it speaks directly to what the Republican Party used to be. In today’s terms, we call them moderates or right-leaning independents. But that’s the voice that may ultimately decide the presidential election, though you wouldn’t know it from the stance taken by the current field of conservatives.
Arnold’s issue on Sunday? Yes, renewable energy. It’s something he knows a thing or two about. As governor of California, Schwarzenegger was instrumental in setting the stage for where the state is today. It’s the economic engine of the country’s burgeoning renewables industries. You don’t have to tell him that the right investments lead to the right jobs. In fact, most of California’s representatives have been relatively quiet even as the Solyndra fiasco unfolded in their back yard. (Yes, those were pictures of Arnold at the Solyndra groundbreaking). In California, clean technology is big business, and even the most ardent conservatives, like Rep. Darrell Issa, have worked to fuel that engine with government backing.
Now that he's out of office, Schwarzenegger is concerned that the GOP is going so far right that it’s dropping some core values along the way. Chief among them are security and the desire to lead in the technology sectors that will shape the world. There is a role for government, he says. And done right, it pays back handsomely. Here’s a taste from his op-ed:
Imagine what the renewables industry would look like if the federal government leveled the playing field and showed the same dedication we have in California. Our green sector is the brightest spot in California’s economy, having grown 10 times faster than any other business sector since 2005. Today, one in every four jobs in the U.S. solar industry is in California. One-third of U.S. clean-tech venture capital flows into our state. Nurturing the green-tech sector was the right thing for me to do as governor, and it is the right thing for the federal government to do.
More than anything, though, he was challenging members of the GOP field to show their hand on energy. That’s unlikely to happen in the primary as they all jockey to be on the right side (ideologically speaking) of the issue. There will be some room to move toward the center during a general election, but it’s unlikely we’ll have any real movement unless President Obama forces the issue. He won’t do that until the jobs picture brightens well beyond the current 8.6 percent unemployment rate.
So what we have now is a Republican field fairly unified in its vision of energy. In a nutshell, the narrative is this: Too many rules and restrictions have forced the U.S. to look elsewhere for its energy sources. Lifting these regulations, especially on exploration for oil and natural gas, will give us the energy security we need. They go on to say that we need to rely on an “all of the above” strategy, which is usually a more judicious way of saying “we need to dig for more oil, natural gas and coal, and we need to move ahead with our nuclear energy policy.” As far as renewables go, it’s been “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
With that in mind, we perused each of the candidate’s official websites to get their official word on where they stood on energy policy. Here’s a quick primer on what we found, and we placed the candidates in order of most to least renewables friendly. While Rick Santorum is still tracking in the polls, he did not take a stand on energy policy on his site, so he’s not on our list. But just for the record, he’s for expanded exploration of oil and gas and against the federal government “picking winners and losers.”