Recently, President Barack Obama unveiled his new plan to combat global climate change. In the weeks and months ahead, the actors on both sides of this needlessly partisan political drama will play their parts and stick to the script. Most Republicans will charge the White House with over-reaching and most Democrats will counter that Republicans are doing nothing to deal with the energy and environmental challenges we face.
The truth lies somewhere in between, and the American people have seen this movie before. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
At the end of May, Tennessee Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander gave a speech on the future of energy. Alexander laid out four principles to guide the path forward: cheaper, not more expensive energy; clean, not just renewable energy; research and development, not government mandates; and a free market, not government, picking winners and losers.
The press described Alexander’s speech as a “maverick GOP vision” and described his remarks as “bold,” noting a deep schism in the Republican Party on energy
It is true that Alexander is in the minority among his GOP colleagues on the Hill, but is he out of step with where rank-and-file Republicans are on these issues? No.
The perception is that the Republican base is monolithic when it comes to energy and that any Republican who strays from “drill, baby, drill” does so at his or her own political peril. That perception, however, is not the reality.
A national poll conducted this spring by GOP polling firm TargetPoint found that Republican voters are much more receptive to the kind of message offered by leaders such as Alexander than conventional wisdom would have you believe.
The polling showed there is nothing partisan about support for an all-of-the-above approach to energy with 75 percent of voters agreeing that “we should remove unnecessary barriers to domestic energy production and implement an ‘all of the above’ approach that includes traditional resources like oil and natural gas as well as renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power.” This includes majorities of Democrats, Republicans and independents.
Even more surprising to many is that a near majority — 47 percent — of Republicans favor “the Federal government taking action to reduce emissions of gases like carbon dioxide that cause climate change,” and those numbers are even higher among younger Republicans, with 67 percent of GOP millennials (those born between 1980 and 2000) favoring federal action, and 57 percent of Republicans under the age of 40 supporting federal action. Republicans, like all Americans, want Congress and the White House to come together to enact solutions that will provide clean, cheap and reliable energy beyond a four-year presidential term.
Across a number of motivating reasons, there is overwhelming Republican support for taking action on energy issues. An overwhelming 76 percent of Republican voters support action on energy issues in order to “strengthen national security with energy independence.”
The poll further shows Republican voters also support action on energy issues to “stabilize the economy” (77 percent), “be a responsible steward of God’s creation” (70 percent), “leave a legacy of clean air for future generations” (63 percent), “prevent the United States from going to war over oil” (61 percent) and “promote better health with reduced air pollution” (59 percent).
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.