Rick Perry’s environmental record is as straightforward as it gets. Under his leadership, the state has consistently ranked as the worst in the nation when it comes to carbon emissions. Yet Perry has taken on the natural gas industry when it comes to fracking and he has even incentivised green energy initiatives. He just tries to keep the federal government out of anything that happens in Texas. So without further ado, here are a few of the tenets that make up Perry’s energy and environmental platform.
Don’t get confused by the knowledge that Perry is a former Democrat who led Al Gore’s presidential campaign back in 1988. Perry is no Al Gore. In fact, as Politico reported a few years back, Perry has strong feelings about Gore’s scientific arguments for taking on man-made climate change. "I certainly got religion. I think he's gone to hell," said Perry back in 2009, to a group in Dallas that wanted to know what happened between he and Gore. These feelings haven’t flip-flopped. While other Republicans like Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty and Newt Gingrich have had to a flip-flop dance between admitting they believe in science and telling anti-science voters that they deny the scientific evidence that climate change is affected by human activities, Perry has held a consistent line. As governor that line has been to consistently resist federal policies aimed at combating climate change, which brings me to my next point.
In 2010, Perry jumped at the opportunity to sign a pledge sponsored by right-wing groups to oppose any “climate tax” bills that came from Washington. While this was mainly a reaction to the proposed cap-and-trade bills making their way through Washington, it was hardly Perry’s first rodeo. Beyond praying that cap-and-trade never happens, Perry has kept Texas out of the Western Climate Initiative, which was championed by Republican presidential contender Jon Huntsman (R-Utah) and former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-Calif.). This is something that neither Romney nor Pawlenty can say for their states. Now this isn’t to say that Perry has done nothing to reduce emissions. Under his watch, Texas has instituted the TERP program, which provides some incentives for individuals, businesses and local governments to reduce their carbon footprints.
While this may seem like a step in the green direction, it would be hard for Texas to get any dirtier. In fact, under Perry, Texas has consistently been the nation’s largest emitter of carbon emissions. Perry, who is on record saying he may be in favor of Texas leaving the United States, would have an interesting situation on his hands if his wish were granted. If Perry were to be the president of the Texas Republic, “it would be the world's eighth-largest emitter of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, just behind Canada,” according to the Energy Information Administration.
Sharing oil revenues
Rick Perry is not alone among governors and senators in wanting states to grab a share of the oil revenues that are generated by offshore drilling. Perry joined other governors of the Western Governors Association in declaring that the system for several mineral tax revenues is inconsistent for onshore mineral development and offshore development. “The federal government does not share directly with the coastal states a meaningful portion of the revenues from the OCS, but it does share 50 percent of the revenues with the state for the development of onshore federal mineral resources within the state’s borders,” said the organization about 10 years ago. Perry wants to drill offshore and be able to grab some of the cash for doing so in an effort to offset the effects of drilling off his own shores. As you can imagine, he was also opposed to President Barack Obama’s de facto moratorium on offshore drilling after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
Some green/clean stuff, too
Perry does have a bit of a green in his record. In fact, as governor, Perry was instrumental in 2009 in passing a $5,000 incentive for the purchase of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. He has favored legislation to get television manufacturers to recycle their outdated sets in a responsible way. Politico reported that he would ride George W. Bush’s coattails when it comes to a renewable energy standard within his own state. “Like George W. Bush before him, Perry also likes to showcase his state's renewable energy mandates, which in his case have already been met even though the targets stretch out to 2025.” That same report reveals that, “Like his national party's leaders, Perry also regularly touts an 'all of the above' energy strategy that includes promoting carbon capture and storage, West Texas wind turbines, bio-refineries and nuclear power." Whether or not these policies are actually green is a matter of perspective, but they are worth noting. And while these sort of green initiatives certainly don’t overshadow Perry’s support of the huge fossil fuel industry in Texas, they do show he’s somewhat opened-minded. (Well, at least open minded enough to take on the natural gas industry.)
Rick Perry was one of the first governors to refuse to let the natural gas industry do hydraulic fracturing (also known as fracking) in his state without disclosing the toxic chemicals it uses to do so. In fact, while Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal championed such a policy, Perry did so knowing he would remain governor. (Freudenthal did so in the twilight of his second term in office, when he was governing from a lame duck position.) Nonetheless, Perry put his signature on a bill in July 2011 that required some disclosure of the chemicals used in the fracking process, making that information available to the public. Critics will say Perry’s support was just an effort to undermine federal regulation of fracking, and that may be true. But without Perry's approval, zero disclosure would continue to be the norm in the Lone Star state.
So this is Perry's energy and environmental record. It's interesting; it comes with a little bit for everyone to like and to dislike. It is also clear — which in this blogger’s opinion is something not shared by all of the candidates in the Republican field.
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