25 Oct 2011

What a third-party presidential candidate could do for U.S. energy policy 2013 and beyond

Written by Jim Pierobon

The shallow debates and partisan bickering even with the Republican Party does not bode well for a thoughtful, forward-looking evolution of U.S. energy policy after President Obama’s first term. With his administration scaling back commitments to cleaner energy and falling far short of substantive steps to end the “tyranny” of crude oil as he put it in 2008, large donors from fossil fuel industries are strengthening their hand.

Unless  . . . an independent, less-partisan, third-party candidate can be nominated and secure a slot on the general election ballots in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. At the very least, the mere presence of a credible third-party in most of the key states could help shape a more responsible debate between Obama and the GOP nominee.

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It happened with Teddy Roosevelt in 1912, George Wallace in 1968, John Anderson in 1980 and Ross Perot in 1992. Can a candidate recruited say, by AmericansElect.org, the “Occupy” movement or the Tea Party, pull it off in 2012?

Americans Elect’s National Field Director, Kellen Arno, spoke with K2 Radio in Wyoming last week, and addressed the question of whether a nominee from Americans Elect could be a spoiler for one party or the other. Many political historians concluded that is precisely the role that Perot played in 1992 enabling Bill Clinton to unseat then-President George H.W. Bush.

“This idea that we could somehow be a spoiler, we’re not going to be coming from the far right or the far left and taking only votes away from one party. The political marketplace is a marketplace just like any other. And Americans Elect, we will go out, we will get 50-state ballot access, and we’ll put forth a credible candidate. I have faith in the American people that they’ll vote accordingly and the political marketplace will be okay.”

The authors make a credible case for a what non-partisan U.S. presidential candidate could do for U.S. energy policy.

In their new book, That Used To Be Us, co-authors Tom Friedman on The New York Times and Michael Mandelbaum of Johns Hopkins University fan the flames of voter discontent. They assert a third-party candidate, as a voice for the “radical center,” could provide the “shock therapy” America needs.  Key to any solution is this candidate’s courage to raise taxes, cut spending and charge higher prices for energy.

Energy and the environment constitute one of Friedman’s and Mandelbaum’s four major challenges facing America. If each is not dealt with in a responsible, sustainable manner,  they paint a grim future for the U.S. in an increasingly interconnected and hyper-competitive global market led and shaped by China. The other three major challenges — information technology, globalization and deficits / debt – together cast the U.S.  behind the 8-ball with dire consequences.

Energy and environment, separately, are two of the nine categories Americans Elect is seeking inputs on to help frame the challenge its delegates will pose to prospective non-partisan candidates. Persons interested in learning more and answering questions framing the challenge can sign up here.

Friedman and Mandelbaum make one of the better arguments for cleaning up U.S. power generation and boosting efficiency in vehicles and facilities. “If we prepare for climate change by gradually building an economy based on clean power systems but climate change turns out not be as damaging as we expect” the result, yes, would be “higher energy prices but lower energy bills.”

The mandate that could come with a potent third-party candidate could help develop a market ecosystem complete with rules, standards, regulations and – most importantly – price signals to step up the pace of green innovations.

It is often stated but deserves repeating here: Solar energy is an industry invented and pioneered in the United States. Now China and Germany do more for — and with — solar energy to help create jobs and companies grow within their borders. Each country attracted more in clean energy investment capital than the U.S. in both 2009 and 2010.

How ironic that SolarWorld and six other U.S.-based solar panel manufacturers filed an anti-dumping trade case against China this past week claiming government-supported Chinese companies are selling panels at below cost to garner market share in the U.S.

Seizing leadership positions in clean energy is much like buying insurance to combat climate change. Even if global warming does not unfold they way environmental activists claim it will, the sustainable jobs that can be created in the process will position the U.S. in what is shaping up to be the next major cutting edge industry on which the economic fortunes of the richest countries of the world will depend.

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