Republicans Have Handed Democrats a Winning Election Issue
By David Morris, AlterNet
Posted on August 20, 2008, Printed on August 20, 2008
The Republicans keep handing the Democrats a winning election issue. And the Democrats keeping refusing to accept the gift. I hope the beginning of the formal election campaign knocks some sense into them.
The gift is the Republicans' continued opposition to extending renewable energy incentives. Eight times since the fall of 2007, a Republican-threatened filibuster has thwarted a vote on extending these incentives. They will expire at the end of this year -- and with that expiration, many believe the solar and wind industries will come to a grinding halt.
The GOP is holding the renewable energy industry hostage to its demand that Congress not reduce the existing subsidies to oil companies, hedge fund managers and foreign corporations. It is a bizarre linkage, but so far the Republicans are getting away with it.
Indeed, it is the Democrats who are on the defensive on the energy issue. Even a cursory perusal of the media shows that Republicans have succeeded in putting the focus on offshore drilling. Democrats have reacted by arguing that this strategy would supply too little additional oil much too late to have any significant impact. They're right, but their argument doesn't resonate to an American public that wants the government to do something, anything, about oil prices, and for them offshore drilling at least is a concrete supply-side proposal.
Democrats need to shift the focus to renewable energy, a supply-side strategy that holds much greater promise both in the short term and in the long term -- and one that is wildly popular. By most polls, more than 80 percent of Americans support government incentives for renewable energy.
On renewable energy, the Democrats have a clear advantage in this presidential election. John McCain, the GOP's presidential standard-bearer, has consistently opposed government support for renewable energy. Several times he has voted against extending renewable energy incentives. Sometimes he simply fails to show up for a vote. But even then, he is clear on how he would have voted. In one instance, when he failed to show up for a vote, the New York Times reported, "Aides to Mr. McCain said that he would have sided with the Republican leaders and that his vote was not needed."
McCain's justification for opposing renewable energy incentives at times appears to be a philosophical position. As he responded to one reporter's question, "I'm not one who believes that we need to subsidize things. The wind industry is doing fine, the solar industry is doing fine."
Yet his is a philosophy that is applied in an almost bizarrely inconsistent manner. For example, he vigorously supports nuclear energy and oil, two of our most highly subsidized fuels. Indeed, he joined his Republican brethren in fighting Democratic efforts to simply reduce existing subsidies to the wildly profitable oil industry. Can it be that renewable energy is the only type of energy McCain believes does not deserve government support?