Rick Perry released his new energy plan on Friday morning, and in doing so he reinforced his position as a front line soldier in the Republican Party’s war on the environment. Perry’s plan — which is best described as a slightly more eloquent articulation of Sarah Palin’s calls to “drill, baby, drill!” — follows the controversial passage of the EPA Regulatory Relief Act of 2011 and the proposed Keystone XL pipeline as clear examples that the United States is moving in the wrong direction when it comes to protecting the environment and the health of its citizens.
Perry’s energy plan calls for increasing energy production on federal land such as Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, increasing off-shore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean, and undoing countless Environmental Protection Agency regulations. Perry also emphasized the importance of changing the public’s perception of the coal industry in the United States. The Texas governor likes to refer to the U.S. as “the Saudi Arabia of coal;” it is unclear whether or not he means this as a compliment.
Perry argues that his plan would create 1.2 million new jobs, and that more could come in the future by repealing the EPA’s “job-killing” regulations to protect our clean air and drinking water.
“As president, I would roll back the radical agenda of President Obama’s job-killing Environmental Protection Agency. Our nation does not need costly new federal restrictions, especially during our present economic crisis. I would also oppose federal restrictions on natural gas production, including hydraulic fracturing, which is successfully regulated at the state level, and will deliver the energy needed to spark our economic recovery.
Much of my plan can be accomplished by changing the occupant of the White House and removing the liberal, anti-job activists running regulatory agencies in Washington. With the stroke of a pen, I will initiate a review of all Obama-era regulations, begin a comment and review period, and work to eliminate onerous rules that kill jobs with little benefit to the environment.”
The only problem? Experts disagree that Perry’s plan would actually create the jobs that he promises. The amount of oil that could be gained by drilling in wildlife reserves such as ANWR would be a mere drop in the bucket of our total consumption, and it will take years between when the drilling begins and when new energy sources are actually found, allowing a significant number of jobs to be created. Furthermore, Perry’s claim that environmental regulations kill jobs has been thoroughly debunked; as Bruce Bartlett, a former adviser in the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations, put it in a New York Times editorial:
The number of layoffs nationwide caused by government regulation is minuscule and shows no evidence of getting worse during the Obama administration
In my opinion, regulatory uncertainty is a canard invented by Republicans that allows them to use current economic problems to pursue an agenda supported by the business community year in and year out. In other words, it is a simple case of political opportunism, not a serious effort to deal with high unemployment.
Even though Perry’s home state is a prime example of the dangers of environmental deregulation, it’s not surprising to see him taking a stand against the EPA. Perry’s just following the rest of the Republican Party’s lead.
On Thursday night, Republicans in the House of Representatives passed the EPA Regulatory Relief Act of 2011. Republicans argue that the bill, which they call a “timeout” from EPA regulations aimed at mercury, will save thousands of jobs that are being threatened by over-regulation.
The EPA, on the other hand, believes that the bill could cause 20,000 premature deaths from pollution-related illness. The EPA Regulatory Act of 2011 is only the latest in a long line of congressional attacks on the EPA: In the past year alone, the House of Representatives has voted on 159 anti-environmental regulation bills.
The irony here is almost too strong to believe. Republicans claim to be the “Party of Life,” but one of their top legislative agendas promises to cut thousands of lives prematurely short. They justify these votes by claiming that jobs are more important than anything, but they refuse to even consider the American Jobs Act, because it was proposed by a Democrat.
Maybe the Republicans are too are beholden to the corporate interests that oppose protecting the environment, or maybe they just don’t believe the scientific proof that our environment is going from bad to worse. No matter the reason, one thing is clear: Republicans are on the wrong side of the environmental protection debate, and they have been for a long time.