Krugman: Today's GOP Is Further to the Right than Cheney - Yikes!

Here's a sentence no one ever expected to utter: Today's GOP is further to the right than Dick Cheney. That cannot be good.

Paul Krugman opens his Monday column by reminiscing about an intellectually bankrupt report that Vice President Cheney released back in the day as head of the "Cheney task force" on energy. Everyone knew it was bought and paid for by Big Oil, though the administration tried its best to keep the people the task force met a secret.

By today's horrifying GOP standards, however, the report was relatively enlightened. "One whole chapter was devoted to conservation, another to renewable energy, Krugman notes. "By contrast, recent speeches by Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio — still the most likely Republican presidential nominees — barely address either topic. When it comes to energy policy, the G.O.P. has become fossilized. That is, it’s fossil fuels, and only fossil fuels, all the way."

What the likes of Rubio and Jeb! ignore is that "spectacular progress in wind and solar energy" that has occurred in recent years, Krugman writes. "Why has the right become so hostile to technologies that look more and more like the wave of the future?" 

As he points out, renewable energy is not just "hippie-dippy stuff" anymore. The cost of wind power has dropped sharply, and solar panels are getting better and cheaper at "a startling rate, reminiscent of the progress in microchips that underlies the information technology revolution. As a result, renewables account for essentially all recent growth in electricity generation capacity in advanced countries."

Renewable energy has become enough of an industry that it has become a job creators, employing more and more people as coal jobs disappear. 


So you might expect people like Mr. Rubio, who says he wants to “unleash our energy potential,” and Mr. Bush, who says he wants to “unleash the Energy Revolution,” to embrace wind and solar as engines of jobs and growth. But they don’t. Indeed, they’re less open-minded than Dick Cheney, which is quite an accomplishment. Why?

Part of the answer is surely that promotion of renewable energy is linked in many people’s minds with attempts to limit climate change — and climate denial has become a key part of conservative identity. The truth is that climate impact isn’t the only cost of burning fossil fuels, that fossil-fuel-associated pollutants like particulates and ozone inflict huge, measurable damage and are major reasons to support alternative energy. Furthermore, renewables are getting close to being cost-competitive even in the absence of special incentives (and don’t forget that oil and gas have long been subsidized by the tax code.) But the association with climate science evokes visceral hostility on the right.

Beyond that, you need to follow the money. We used to say that the G.O.P. was the party of Big Energy, but these days it would be more accurate to say that it’s the party of Old Energy. In the 2014 election cycle the oil and gas industry gave 87 percent of its political contributions to Republicans; for coal mining the figure was 96, that’s right, 96 percent. Meanwhile,alternative energy went 56 percent for Democrats.

Big oil keeps desperately trying to prevent the truth from getting out there though, often all too successfully. Deplorably, Krugman points out, Newsweek recently published a Koch-backed op-ed arguing that wind energy costs much more than it seems which was shown to be error-strewn.

Longing for the days of Dick Cheney. Boy, doesn't get much more sobering than that.

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