Who is working overtime to paint themselves into the biggest political corner of this election cycle? Democrats obviously don’t recognize it yet, but they have placed themselves in an inescapable trap with extreme positions on energy and the environment – irresponsible positions that have fragmented their party and could easily produce dire consequences for Democrats at the polls in November.
The extreme fringe of the environmental movement has emerged as a powerful faction within the Democratic Party, in large measure due to colossal political spending by billionaire and former hedge fund manager Tom Steyer. Their new dominance has translated into a long list of policy initiatives for “green” energy. Wind and solar companies today are lavished with generous federal subsidies, government-backed loan guarantees (remember the Solyndra debacle?), grants, tax preferences, incentives and beneficial mandates.
The raw deal that American taxpayers are getting is nothing short of scandalous. “Green energy remains an inconsequential source of energy in America despite more than $80 billion in direct federal taxpayer subsidies under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama,” write authors Stephen Moore and Kathleen Hartnett White in their new book Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy. “Wind and solar combined produce less than 3 percent of our energy, and only about 5 percent of our electricity.”
It gets worse. Democrat policymakers are deliberately targeting fossil fuels by making them less accessible and more expensive to produce. The Obama administration and its allies have killed the Keystone XL pipeline project; slow-walked oil and natural gas drilling permits; closed public lands to drilling; imposed staggeringly expensive new regulations and proposed billions of dollars in new taxes aimed at oil and natural gas producers.
Meanwhile, Democratic operatives are oblivious to the fact that in pandering to fringe environmental activists, they are alienating traditional, loyal Democratic voting blocs.
Officials from eight building trade unions recently sent a letter to the AFL-CIO expressing outrage over its decision to create a super PAC with Steyer, who led the battle against the Keystone pipeline – along with many high-paying union jobs. The letter took issue with “an environmental agenda that “has produced mixed results at best and disastrous results at worst for our members and their employment prospects in many instances throughout the country.”
Hillary Clinton might be in trouble with union members as well for declaring her opposition to Keystone. Additionally, natural gas drilling and energy production employs thousands of union members who may be troubled by her declaration, “By the time we get through all of my conditions, I do not think there will be many places in America where fracking will continue to take place.” Curiously, as U.S. Secretary of State, Clinton was a major force behind bringing hydraulic fracturing to other countries.
Green groups, unimpressed with the need to protect union jobs and heel the interparty rift have declared open season on energy employers by making prosecution of climate change skeptics part of the Democratic Platform.
In my home state of Ohio, which is a key swing state, the United Mine Workers of America’s political arm endorsed Republican Sen. Rob Portman for reelection over Democratic challenger Ted Strickland – who they supported both times he ran for Governor. Strickland’s work for anti-coal organizations angered the union, which depends on the industry for thousands of jobs in Ohio.
Poor minority families and seniors on fixed incomes are two more voting groups that Democrats may have trouble keeping in the fold. Energy bills generally already account for one-fifth of struggling Americans’ income, which proportionately represents three times more than what high-income households must allocate. By mandating a shift from affordable energy to green energy, environmental extremists are, in essence, imposing a devastating regressive energy tax on the poor. Rising electricity bills put increasing numbers of Americans at risk for green energy poverty, which is when 10 percent or more of a household’s income is spent on home energy costs.
And in North Carolina environmental extremists are running false, misleading ads attacking the GOP Governor and making false claims of threats to drinking water quality while the state legislature works on a responsible – an affordable solution to the state’s coal ash management issues.
Democrats who expect their traditional base to turn out to say “thank you” in November may be disappointed.
Kenneth Blackwell, a former mayor of Cincinnati and Ohio secretary of state, is on the board of the National Taxpayers Union and the Club for Growth.