Energy Policy Platform: The Democrats

When the Democratic National Convention met last month to formally approve their party’s platform, delegates had to address several key tasks. Chief among them was to clarify the party’s stance on the pressing energy and environmental issues of the day. The new platform contains a number of key changes from prior iterations, representing a clear leftward shift over previous years.

Notable facets of the Democratic Party Platform on the energy and environmental policy front include:

  • Building a Clean Energy Economy – e.g., get 50 percent of the nation’s electricity from clean energy sources within a decade, install half a billion solar panels within four years and enough renewable energy to power every home in the country, reduce oil consumption through cleaner fuels, remove tax breaks for fossil fuel companies, and extend tax incentives for energy efficiency and renewable energy.
  • Securing Environmental and Climate Justice – e.g., eradicate lead poisoning, prioritize the hiring and training of workers from affected communities to clean up toxic brownfields and expand energy efficiency and renewable infrastructure; ensure coal workers and families receive the benefits they have earned and respect they deserve, and hold to account corporations that do not fully analyze and report their climate risk.
  • Protecting Public Lands and Waters – e.g., establishing an American Parks Trust Fund to help expand recreational opportunities and rehabilitate existing parks, opposing drilling in the Arctic and off the Atlantic coast, and reforming fossil fuel leasing on public lands.

Also notable is the lack of acknowledgement that increased electric generation from natural gas has been the primary (and most cost-effective) driver in reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. Instead, the platform explicitly states a desire to “incentivize wind, solar, and other renewable energy over the development of new natural gas power plants.”

While the Democratic Party has long opposed oil and gas drilling in environmentally sensitive areas like the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), previous platforms acknowledged the important role that fossil fuels play in America’s energy future. For example, the 2012 Democratic Party Platform sought to “[p]reserve ANWR but explore for oil responsibly elsewhere.”

In contrast, the current platform advocates for a phase down of fossil fuel extraction on public lands. This is a pretty significant leftward shift in just four years’ time and may represent a signal to Democratic lawmakers that any support for fossil fuels generally is verboten, something more moderate-minded Democratic lawmakers in energy producing states will have to account for.

In Depth: Energy

It is difficult – and perhaps even impossible – to overstate the relationship between readily available access to safe, affordable and reliable energy and individual prosperity and economic wellbeing. This is because energy is an input to virtually everything we produce, consume and enjoy in society. Think for a minute …

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