Gingrich and Romney Offer the Same Tired Energy Policies

Newt Gingrich trounced Mitt Romney in South Carolina, ensuring that the race for the GOP nomination will likely continue for weeks to come. The Republican establishment may have settled on Romney, but voters keep throwing their support behind the anti-Romney -- whichever candidate of the moment sounds as different from the supposedly “moderate” Massachusetts governor as possible.

Right now, Gingrich is the one generating all the passion. But if one goes by their campaign statements, Gingrich differs from Romney more in style (and personal life) than in substance. Gingrich has more spit and fire in him, but he and Romney share many views, including their similarly outdated approach to energy development.

We’ve heard the same tired ideas during the primaries, and we will hear them again in the Republican response to the State of the Union Address on Tuesday night: candidates offer plenty of attacks on Obama, but no new vision for America’s energy future.

Gingrich may be the man who wrote the book, Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less: A Handbook for Solving Our Energy Crisis, but Romney is just as eager to rely on the same fossil fuels we’ve been using for the past 100 years. Romney’s energy blueprint, included in his “Believe in America” economic plan, calls for flinging open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to energy companies, sinking wells into the deepwater, and expanding fracking in the Marcellus Shale, despite a long list of environmental and public health concerns (not to mention small earthquakes).

Neither Romney nor Gingrich has a fresh plan for an energy future built on innovation and cutting-edge technology. Neither one talks about how better-performing cars are putting 150,000 Americans to work right now and helping slash our oil addiction at the same time. Neither one trumpets the fact that American engineers are already making breakthroughs in the next generation of solar technology. And neither one of them urges America to lead what has been estimated as the $243 billion global clean energy market.

Instead, both Romney and Gingrich seem to view renewable technologies as a wasteful distraction. This despite the fact that the Department of Defense—the nation’s largest consumer of energy—has pledged to get 25 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2025 because of national security concerns.

The candidates like to demagogue about energy independence, but they have no plan to achieve it besides doing more of the same—an approach that hasn’t worked so far. We saw it in Gingrich’s acceptance speech in South Carolina. “I want America to become so energy independent that no American president ever again bows to a Saudi king.” That is a fine aspiration, but instead of encouraging Detroit to build more fuel-efficient engines or farmers to grow sustainable biofuels, he called for expanding offshore drilling and approving the Keystone XL pipeline.

When your home has 1.6 percent of the globe’s proven oil reserves and you consume 26 percent of the world’s supply, there is a limit to how much you can influence supply. That's not politics; it's geology.

And building a pipeline from a friendly ally won’t help much when the pipeline operators routinely say in the Canadian press that a primary goal of Keystone XL is to access Asian markets. The same operators have refused in Congressional testimony to commit to selling the majority of their oil to the United States. Instead, they are rerouting it out of the Midwest and into the “Foreign Trade Zone” in Port Arthur, Texas, where companies get incentives to export from of the United States.

Approving a pipeline to help dirty tar sands oil get to Asia is not a long-term plan for America’s energy system. Opening more ocean waters to drilling won’t position us to lead the next generation of energy breakthroughs. But that doesn’t stop Gingrich and Romney from singing the same old song again and again.

President Obama recognizes that America’s energy leadership will be built on clean technologies. Last week he kicked off his presidential campaign advertising with an ad devoted to the economic power of clean energy. I expect he will highlight it again in the State of the Union.

Here is how I expect the GOP candidates to respond: They will criticize Obama’s clean energy programs and sprinkle in fossil fuel buzzwords like Keystone and drilling. But their complaints can’t cover the fact that they have no fresh ideas, no innovation, and no groundbreaking vision for America’s energy future.

No to Billary and the Politics of Division

     There has been a lot of ink and paper used up to explain the South Carolina primary and what it means to the candidates and the electoral process. The two facts that I think South Carolina makes abundantly clear are that the voters are rejecting the politics of divisiveness and the idea of a co-Presidency. Now while much will be made of the fact that the majority of Democratic voters in South Carolina are black, I believe that there is still data that can be gleaned from the results and despite the fact Bill Clinton made absolutely clear that Jesse Jackson carried South Carolina the electorate today was different than when Jesse ran.

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Demographics and Low-hanging fruit or why a loss is a loss and a win is a win

A lot of the story out of the SC primary has focused on demographic analysis and whether or not Senator Obama got enough of the "White vote" to stay competitive beyond SC. First of all, as I noted in an earlier post you can't necessarily compare numbers across states, a point that was borne out once again as the demographics of the race changed dramatically from one state to another, and so did the results. Because Obama won women in Iowa didn't mean he went on to win them in NH. Just because his share of the white vote went down in SC doesn't mean white voters from earlier states have changed their mind, it means less whites voted for him in SC.  It's a fallacy to present a change in votes between Iowa to New Hampshire to Nevada to South Carolina to be representative of any national or temporal trend. These aren't shifts in the overall electorate overtime, they are how the electorate in a particular state voted. Despite how media analysts present it, this ain't the same kettle of fish each time.

The other story coming out of South Carolina, along with every other primary, that casts some doubt on the demographic analyses is that turn out on the Democratic side is up remarkably (my entry into the understatement of the year awards)...with every group. A lot of this is thanks to President Bush's incompetence and a lot is due to an exciting race. Either way, my point is that demographic analysis of the party based on past races doesn't really work. Furthermore the demographic breakdowns based on things as broad as race, gender, and education level don't get into nearly enough detail about the micro-targeting that these campaigns are doing (which can get as specific as what church a voter goes to, where they shop, where they get their news, what shows they watch, and more). Part of the reason the polls were so wrong in New Hampshire is that women supporting Senator Clinton turned out in unexpected numbers. What matters in these races is not the demographics of who's registered as a Democrat or even who has voted in these primaries in the past. The only demographics that matter are the demographics of the people that show up on the day. And with turn out up as high as it is across the board, these demographic analyses based on past numbers and broad groups don't have as much validity.

There's another reason we could be seeing these demographic shifts in the vote from state to state, it could be that the race in each state is different (I still believe Tip's adage, crazy right?). Notably the strategy of each campaign in each state is different. In a campaign where you have limited resources, your first goal is to turn out the lowest hanging fruit. For Senator Clinton she saw her support in the African American community, which at the end of last year she competed for fairly evenly with Senator Obama, erode dramatically along with her substantial lead. A combination of his win in Iowa, viability in the other states, and her campaigns tactics. From her campaign's perspective they decided to refocus on capturing other non-black voters where they were still competitive. For Senator Obama, in an electorate where upward of 50% of the vote was expected to be African American and that was breaking for him upwards of 80% (based on polling before the election), it makes sense he would have invested more heavily in turning out and appealing that favorable vote, and that being competitive in other demographics is just a bonus. It's that bonus that made his margin so huge last night, he tied Senator Clinton on white men, won women overall, and appealed to young voters across the board. Rather than it being a dramatic drop in Senator Obama or Senator Clinton's support among this group or that group from one state to the the next I think these changes represent particular strategies in each state contest. On that front I see a lot of reason to be happy about the results out of the early states as an Obama supporter.

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South Carolina Is An Outlier

Interesting, MSNBC just reported that 47% of voters said Barack Obama is the candidate with the right experience to be president; just 35% say the same of Hillary Clinton.

Looking at the internals of the final Survey USA poll, we see a similar dynamic that makes it clear how differently South Carolina voters see the candidates than other early states and voters nationwide do. Look at who the respondents said are best on the issues of Iraq and terrorism.

CandidateGeneral SupportWho's Best On Iraq?Who's Best On Terrorism?

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500,000 People Voted In The SC Democratic Primary

Wow. Estimates had topped out at 350,000. This is a ridiculous improvement over 2004 when just 290,000 voters voted in the Dem primary. But even more impressive, Barack Obama's vote total alone today has now officially exceeded all votes cast in the 2004 Dem primary. He's now about 294,000. And MSNBC just announced that 155,000 more black voters voted today than voted in 2004.

445,000 people voted in last weekend's Republican primary. Democratic turnout outpaced Republican turnout in South Carolina? Amazing.

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