06/28/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Why Do Republicans Like Fossil Fuels and Not Care That Much for the Environment?

Well, a lot more oil/coal money is given to Republican candidates, who therefore display their loyalty when elected by voting for this greenhouse gas energy source and against the environment. While that might be too simplistic an explanation, a good example of such action is Republican Congressman and Whip Roy Blunt (R-Missouri), who, on June 5, 2008, displayed on his web page the following:

ANWR Exploration; REPUBLICANS: 91% supported; DEMOCRATS 86% opposed
Coal to liquid; REPUBLICANS: 97% supported; DEMOCRATS: 78% opposed
Oil shale exploration; REPUBLICANS: 90% supported; DEMOCRATS: 86% opposed
Offshore exploration; REPUBLICANS: 81% supported; DEMOCRATS: 83% opposed

He was merely pointing out that Republicans have been trying to develop homegrown energy reserves while Democrats were the ones responsible for our current energy predicament. Of course, it is no surprise that the League of Conservation Voters, a nonpartisan environmental group, gave him the lowest possible score, zero, seven of the past eight congressional sessions.

Last week in the U.S. Senate, Democrats could not muster the votes to overcome a Republican filibuster on a plan for a windfall profits tax on the oil industry. The week before that Republican Senators killed the climate change mitigation bill. I loved Senator Bernard Sanders' quoted response: "The American people must be wondering what in God's name is going on in their nation's capital." Sanders is an Independent from Vermont.

When I worked in the U.S. Senate, President Jimmy Carter had a progressive solar energy program. But that was mostly because we were in the depths of the second energy crisis and there were such things as gasoline lines. I was still there when Ronald Reagan became president and decimated the national solar program. I went on to become director of the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute in the mid-80's when there were very little Federal funds for renewable energy research. Hub Hubbard, director of the then Solar Energy Research Institute (now National Renewable Energy Laboratory), and I had an inside joke of not getting much funding, but were nevertheless increasing our market share to keep surviving. SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Planet Earth, shown in the box on the right, goes into the politics of renewable energy.

Mind you, the only Democratic president since then, Bill Clinton, did not do very much for sustainable resources. In fact, somewhat influenced by the aura of global warming, his administration gave their full blessing for increasing natural gas use over coal for electricity production. So what happened? The U.S., in seven years, added more gas-fired electric generation capability than the entire capacity of Europe. So what happened? The price of natural gas tripled, and it is said that not only did American consumers end up paying a lot more for energy, but we also exacerbated our carbon footprint. We have not been very smart in our energy planning, which can be expected, for we still don't have any national energy policy (see my HuffPost of June 2, 2008).

The Congressional Insiders Poll reported on June 7, 2008 showed that 95% of Democrats and only 26% of Republicans agreed with the following statement: "Do you think it's been proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the Earth is warming because of man-made pollution?" Go to for details.

John McCain on June 18, 2008, called for the construction of 45 new nuclear power plants by 2030, drilling for oil in the coastal zone and, again, a summer waiver of the Federal gasoline tax. Barack Obama disagrees on all the above and has continued to emphasize conservation, mass transit and wind, solar and green energy. McCain co-sponsored the climate change mitigation legislation in the Senate, so Obama will not be able to make this major Republican-Democrat difference an issue. But the evidence is overwhelming that Republicans love fossil.

How are these inclinations affecting their electability? In a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll of June 4-5, 2008, voters nationwide were asked, "Which of the following issues will be MOST important to you when you decide how to vote for the president? The results were: the economy (42%), war in Iraq (24%), health care (12%), terrorism (11%), illegal immigration (8%) and other (1%). Peak Oil and Global Warming, thus, combined, rate less than 1%, and did not even make the list.

A Los Angeles Times / Bloomberg Poll of May 1-8, 2008, essentially asked this same question and the environment got 4%. No mention of gasoline or energy. Thus, are Republican/Democratic platforms on energy and the environment irrelevant?

Actually, no, as the Pew Research Center survey of May 21-25, 2008 showed that registered voters thought energy (77%) and the environment (62%) were important issues. Why this remarkable discrepancy among polls? Mainly, the other surveys asked what was the one MOST important issue.

Gasoline sells for more than $10/gallon in Europe (in the $11/gallon range in Germany), so even $5/gallon in the U.S. should be a blessing. Well truckers will begin to find a way to rebel, lifestyles will be compromised and the matter of energy as a problem will grow through the summer, especially if Morgan Stanley is correct that oil will hit $150/barrel by Independence Day.

So what is the conclusion? A wild card in this upcoming election is that McCain and Obama are at polar opposites on the matter of energy. The issue of fossil / nuclear energy versus green energy could well be the uniquely different determining factor in November. We of course need both to minimize the trauma of Peak Oil and Global Warming, but the voting public will actually be able to make a difference in the selection of the 44th President of the United States, and the margin of victory could well be green.