Rick Perry’s Toxic Energy Policy

The Texas Governor’s Idea of Change Is More Drilling and More Polluting
With all the talk from GOP presidential candidates about job creation over the past few months, you would think one of them would discuss details of how the U.S. is to ensure its economic future. You would also think that an intelligent set of policies on job creation would include keeping our air and water clean, developing renewable energy sources and setting higher standards on how dirty industries impact those living around them. Texas Governor Rick Perry’s speech on energy might have addressed some of these issues and focused on moving us forward, especially since his candidacy hinges on his promise to turn the country around. You would think a candidate like that would come up with something other than more of the same.

Sadly, anyone who gave any credence to Perry’s talk about change was sorely disappointed on October 14, when the governor laid out his same-old-GOP energy policy. Expanded oil drilling and production, especially in Alaska and the Mountain West as well as offshore in the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico (yes, the same Gulf of Mexico that has been ecologically crippled by last year’s BP spill), tops Perry’s list. Next comes more coal production, and his insistence that the U.S. is the “Saudi Arabia of coal.” Then, as if to hammer the final nail into the environmental coffin, Perry claims that “activist regulations,” or the Environmental Protection Agency, need to be completely deconstructed in order for his plan to work.

From all of this we are given the arbitrary prediction of 1.2 million new jobs. We are also given a disturbing peek into a President Perry future of dirty air and water piled upon a rapidly warming climate. Drilling for oil offshore and in places like the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge would endanger unique ecosystems already under threat from human activity. Projects like the Keystone XL pipeline would simply encourage more fossil fuel use while at the same time pumping millions of tons of carbon into the atmosphere as Canada’s oil sands are opened to exploitation. Coal, one of the dirtiest fuels available, could be mined without any environmental protections in place and end up polluting the watersheds of communities across the country. When real environmental or human health catastrophes occurred, the EPA would be incapable of addressing them and dirty industry would reign unchallenged.

In fact, the only protection Perry wants to keep in place is for the Florida Everglades, and that’s because Florida is an important primary state. This of course implies that Perry understands major holes in environmental protection might alienate certain voters, and he would rather avoid the issue entirely if he can. Despite his recent speech, Perry’s website still doesn’t include a description of his energy platform and instead addresses jobs and the economy, as well as his faith and patriotism, above all else.

This is the same Rick Perry whose administration censored reports on rising sea levels in Texas’ Galveston Bay to remove mentions of climate change as a probable cause. His climate change denial is accompanied by a lack of understanding of environmental concerns the country and planet are facing. He has no plan, for instance, for safe storage of radioactive waste, instead promoting a “market approach” to determine where it winds up regardless of health concerns.

Instead of addressing the environment, Perry has chosen to embrace a strategy of glazing over complex climate and medical science with promises of massive job creation. He is against subsidizing renewable energy, however, and won’t talk about cutting the billions in subsidies taxpayers give oil companies. So Perry’s jobs plan revolves around relying on the same dirty industries that have threatened environmental and human health for centuries and that enjoy a disproportionately high influence in our democracy. No new jobs retrofitting buildings or constructing solar panels, no environmental regulations that create jobs through oversight and innovation, and no acknowledgement of climate change, let alone a framework for addressing it.

You would think our politicians would recognize the economic and technological stagnation—not to mention environmental catastrophe—we’re currently charging towards. Apparently not.