The most important sentence on energy in the Democratic National Committee (DNC) platform document is the one it took out: this version of the platform no longer supports an “all-of-the-above” energy strategy.
Coal is out. Nuclear energy and hydropower aren’t even mentioned once in the platform. This version seeks to pick winners and losers in the energy space and remake the energy mix the way the DNC platform committee sees fit, regardless of what the market wants.
You know why that’s a bad idea? Because just about every time the government tries to pick winners and losers in the energy space, the government gets it wrong—like really, really wrong.
Eight years ago, we were told that coal would be the dominant electricity source for the next 50 years, that we would hit peak oil and gas and need to build new natural gas import terminals, that a renaissance of new nuclear power plants was upon us and that the vehicle fleet would transition to biofuels. Policies were put into place to adjust to those projections. Fast-forward to today, and just about every one of those predictions has been proven wrong. The one thing the government just couldn’t predict was the pace of innovation. And innovate we did: hydraulic fracturing unlocked hundreds of years’ worth of oil and gas supplies right here in the United States, renewable energy and energy-efficient products and solutions are getting cheaper by the day, the vehicle fleet is getting more efficient and electric vehicles are gaining market share, we are about to become net exporters of oil and gas, and advanced coal and nuclear technologies are getting closer to market.
Point being: a commitment to letting the market decide what energy technologies win or lose got us where we are now. And where we are now is a position of energy strength.
Take natural gas. Manufacturers have historically had an outsized reliance on natural gas. Unlike residential consumers, whose main interactions with natural gas are at the power plant and through their stoves and furnaces, manufacturers rely on natural gas for a wide range of direct and indirect uses. Manufacturers use natural gas as a fuel for direct process uses, such as drying, melting, process cooling, machine drive and refrigeration; as a fuel for direct nonprocess uses in manufacturing establishments, such as heating, ventilation, HVAC and lighting; as a fuel for indirect purposes, such as boilers used to produce electricity and steam; and as a feedstock in refining, chemicals and primary metals sectors. Domestic natural gas has transformed the U.S. economy, made our companies more competitive, created jobs and put money back in the pockets of working Americans.
Over the next decade, total demand for natural gas will increase by 40 percent. Key drivers will be power generation and manufacturing: the chemical industry alone plans to invest in 264 new projects representing $164 billion in capital investment in the United States thanks to natural gas. U.S. supply of natural gas will grow by 48 percent, more than enough to meet growing demand.
Yet, the DNC platform document wants to make it significantly harder to access this energy. It wants to stop energy exploration off the coasts, phase it down on public lands and send the Department of Justice after fossil fuel companies. All of that will make it substantially harder for manufacturers to access the energy that we need to stay competitive.
The DNC platform committee knows as much about the next eight years of our energy future as it did back in 2008. Case in point: the 2008 platform document claimed, “We know we can’t drill our way to energy independence.” Turns out we actually can, and for the most part, have.
The one thing the platform seems to ignore is innovation. Without innovation—without hope—we’re not going to solve any of our environmental challenges and take advantage of new energy opportunities.