The energy debate continued to get more contentious when wildly illogical arguments were tossed out during roundtable discussion hosted by Politico.
The voices, from all sides of the energy debate, included Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Rep. Doc Hastings (R-Wash.), Rep. Dianne DeGette (D-Colo.), former head of the EPA Carol Browner and Doug Holtz-Eakin formerly of John McCain’s presidential campaign.
While DeGette and Browner pushed back on pro-industry, energy policies, Barrasso and Hastings mostly defended the dirty energy sources that fund their campaigns. Not surprisingly, the discussion took a heated turn when both were asked to vote against energy subsidies.
A time to kill subsidies?
Carol Browner wasn’t going to let Hastings and Barrasso get away with flip-flopping on their feelings over government handouts. Barrasso, who earlier in the debate made the claim that green job created in America come at the expense of two non-green jobs, got oddly squeamish when Browner asked him why he wouldn’t eliminate the subsidies to the oil industry. Barrasso who has been pushing pro-industry legislation over the past six months said Congress needed to revisit the whole tax code before focusing on just a portion of it.
The hypocrisy was immediately pointed out: “So your okay with focusing on just ethanol subsidies, but when it comes to oil subsidies you simply say you want to deal with the entire tax code? If that’s your argument, I happy to have it with the American people,” said Browner.
Hastings got dizzy on his own spin when he tried to address the issue. “Subsidies should be eliminated over time. The question is when is that time? When the market plays its role,” said Hastings to a surprised audience. If Hastings is willing to let the market decide then the record profits posted by Big Oil in the first quarter should be a clear indicator to get rid of oil and gas subsidies.
Spinning the high gas prices
While the subsidies debate was a ‘he said, she said,’ the panel appeared to run amok with solutions to high gas prices. It was even suggested that the United States should drill its way out of the problem. “It is short sided to ignore the abundance of oil in the Western lands,” he the industry-backed Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee. Since assuming the role (and collecting nearly $100 thousand in oil and gas campaign contributions during the 2010 cycle) has tried several times to open up land for drilling. It would also be short sided for the oil and gas industry to continue to let the 21 million leased acres go undeveloped.
Hastings’ solution was undercut by Holz-Eakin, who acknowledged that gas prices are set on a global market and that getting more fuel into the market won’t have any affect on prices in the short term. Holz-Eakin used this logic to lampoon President Obama’s deployment of the strategic oil reserve, but drifted away from the idea when compromised on Hastings spin.
Fuzzy economic memory
During a brief question and answer session from the audience Brooks Yeager of the Clean Air Cool Planet pressed Holtz-Eakin why he was not focused on reducing demand when America produces five percent of the oil and uses 25 percent of the global supply. Holtz-Eakin simply replied that he wants to get more energy out there but added no analysis to Yeager’s economic inquiry.
“He seemed to forget about economics all of a sudden, funny how that works,” said Yeager when asked by The Checks and Balances Project if he was satisfied with Holtz-Eakin’s answer.
A job over clean air
Among the most unsatisfying answers was Barrasso’s job attack against climate change policies. “I’d rather have a job than clean air,” he said when discussing the economics of cleaning up the atmosphere. Still no clarity on how that supports the clean energy debate. One thing is clear: During the 2012 election the GOP’s stance is to push jobs at the cost of everything else.