The Republican Party platform for 2012 contains no mention of energy efficiency, leading some observers to conclude that the issue of energy conservation--long considered bipartisan—is becoming increasingly politicized.
The omission is “a little bit surprising” given support from previous Republican platforms and from Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney himself during his time as governor of Massachusetts, said Andrew Goldberg, chief lobbyist for the American Institute of Architects, a group that supports energy-efficient buildings.
“Our view is that this was a missed opportunity,” Goldberg told BNA. “An all-of-the-above [energy] strategy is really something that should include efficiency.”
Ron Kaufman, an adviser to the Romney campaign, called energy efficiency “part of the overall mix.”
“Conservation is an important part of it, but you know and I know that conservation alone won’t solve the problem, it’s a piece but it won’t solve the problem,” he said during an interview on the sidelines of the Republican National Convention broadcast on C-SPAN.
The platform was adopted Aug. 28 at the party's convention in Tampa, Fla. While it is nonbinding, it serves as a statement of principles for the fall campaign and mirrors pieces of Republican-backed energy bills, as well as an energy plan recently released by Romney that focuses on expanded oil and gas drilling and does not mention efficiency.
Both the 2008 and 2004 Republican Party platforms supported energy efficiency, and the 2000 document made reference to increasing the energy efficiency of low-income housing.
“Republicans support developing new technologies for more efficient generation and use of power,” the 2004 document said, noting that an energy policy plan released by then-President Bush during his first term included nearly 50 recommendations that addressed renewable energy, energy efficiency, and conservation.
The absence of energy efficiency and clean energy sources in the 2012 platform represents an “extreme ideological shift when it comes to energy and the environment over the past four years,” according to an analysis released Aug. 29 by the Democratic staff of the House Natural Resources Committee that compared the new platform with the 2008 version.
“While Democrats and Republicans have long had differences on energy and environmental issues, the 2012 platform shows clearly that the Republican Party has abandoned many previously bipartisan, common sense policies and has now moved to the extreme ideological fringe,” the analysis said.
The platform approved Sept. 4 at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., calls for increasing energy efficiency in buildings, industry, and homes to reduce reliance on foreign oil, among other mentions of energy conservation.
Members of the Tea Party and other Republicans have made efficiency standards for products such as light bulbs and toilets symbolic of government intrusion and overreach.
Symbol of Government Overreach
The Republican-controlled House voted in June to approve an appropriations bill that would prohibit funding for the enforcement of light bulb efficiency standards, standards several said amounted to a “de facto ban” on the incandescent light bulb.
“The lack of efficiency [in the Republican platform] doesn't strike me as a surprise,” Kenneth Green, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, told BNA. “Part of the issue is that Romney's basic platform is a policy of growth. It isn't a policy of striving for the lower flush toilets and the most efficient light bulbs.”
Green also said a focus on efficiency would have argued against some of Romney's other points, such as his opposition to the automobile fuel standards recently released by the Obama administration.
American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Spending
Republicans also have opposed American Recovery and Reinvestment Act spending on efficiency. In particular, Republican critics panned the $5 billion in stimulus spending for weatherization of low-income houses, citing mismanagement and delays.
“I think it's direct recent empirical evidence of wayward stimulus spending,” William Yeatman, an energy policy analyst with the Competitive Enterprise Institute, said of the platform's exclusion of efficiency. “I think it was very intentional.”
Energy efficiency advocates remain hopeful that Romney, if elected, “won't forget his record” of supporting energy conservation as Massachusetts governor, Rob Mosher, a lobbyist for the nonprofit Alliance to Save Energy, said in an interview.
Romney Supported Residential, Commercial Programs
In addition to signing into law a 2005 bill that established new efficiency standards for products such as residential furnaces, boilers, and light bulbs, Romney pledged support for residential and commercial energy efficiency programs as part of a long-term energy plan in 2006, Mosher said.
That plan included directives requiring energy efficiency measures for current and future state buildings and support for legislation pending at the time that would have provided state tax incentives for the purchase of fuel-efficient vehicles, according to information provided by the Alliance to Save Energy.
“Energy independence will require technology that allows us to use energy more efficiently in our cars, homes, and businesses,” Romney said during a 2007 speech, according to an excerpt provided by the Alliance.
While Mosher said the group was “not entirely sure” why efficiency was excluded from the Republican Party platform, “what we do know is that when Romney was in charge of the State of Massachusetts [he] had a pretty aggressive agenda for energy efficiency.”
“We hope that he would go back to that if he were to become president,” Mosher said.
Ari Natter covers energy efficiency and renewables for Bloomberg BNA and the World Climate Change Report blog.
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