Tough questions for Hillary Clinton about energy policy


Now that Hillary Clinton is a presidential candidate, she needs to explain where she stands on one of the most important public policy issues of our time: energy. Does she want to encourage and expand fossil fuel production to meet the United States’, and possibly our allies’, energy needs? Or will she side with environmentalists’ efforts to scale back and even curtail fossil fuel use?

Voters and the media should press her to answer these questions.

Clinton kicked off her campaign asserting that she wants to focus on helping the middle class. Well, nothing has been a bigger boost to the middle class than the nearly decade-long U.S. energy boom.

Between 2003 and 2012, new oil and gas industry jobs jumped 92 percent, while the job market as a whole increased only 3 percent.

More importantly, oil industry jobs pay well. During 2012, the U.S. oil and gas industry’s average annual wage hit $107,200. That’s more than twice the average for all workers that year.

If Clinton wants to create middle class jobs, unshackling the energy industry, which has flourished in spite of Obama administration regulations and restrictions, would be a good start.

As former secretary of state, Clinton knows that national security depends, in part, on energy security, both for the United States and our allies.

Many of our allies depend on imported oil and natural gas from countries that use access to energy as leverage to promote their political agendas. Europe gets about 30 percent of its imported natural gas from Russia, and Russian President Vladimir Putin can cut off those supplies or raise the price at will.

Our allies want alternative energy sources, which the United States might be able to supply if we removed our 40-year-old ban on exporting crude oil and natural gas. There’s bipartisan support for such a move. Would Clinton support it?

If the presidential election process didn’t begin in Iowa, where nearly half of the corn grown is converted to ethanol, there would be no mandate requiring ethanol to be blended into every gallon of gasoline. But corn farmers and ethanol processors have benefited handsomely from the mandate and demand presidential candidates support it — and most oblige.

In 2002, Clinton opposed the ethanol mandate, calling it “the equivalent to a new gasoline tax,” and voted against ethanol legislation 17 times.

But when she was running for president in 2007, she conveniently decided the ethanol mandate was important. With the oil production explosion, we don’t need ethanol to fill a void.

So this time around will we hear from the 2002 anti-ethanol Senator Clinton or the 2007 pro-ethanol presidential candidate Clinton?

President Obama has funneled billions of taxpayer dollars to various green energy schemes. A number of investors in those companies also happened to be big Obama donors.

Clinton will almost surely support “investing” in various green energy companies in pursuit of the environmental vote. But she should at least be pressured to reveal if there is a limit to her green-energy handouts. How much of your tax dollars is she willing to hand over to companies whose business model can’t attract private venture capital eager to find good investments?

Clinton will try to avoid difficult questions on the campaign trail — a dodge made easier without a serious Democratic opponent. But voters and the media shouldn’t let her.


Merrill Matthews is a resident scholar with the Institute for Policy Innovation, a research-based, public policy think tank in Dallas, Texas. Follow him on Twitter @MerrillMatthews.

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