Where do Party Platforms Stand on Coal and Climate Issues?

Friday, August 19, 2016

With politics heating up, it’s time to take a dive into how political parties approach energy policy on coal and climate change in the party platforms. Here’s a quick take on the on the party platforms of the Republicans, the Democrats, the Libertarians, and the Green Party.

REPUBLICAN PARTY PLATFORM 2016

“Government should not play favorites among energy producers,” the Republican platform states. “Climate change is far from the nation’s most pressing national security issue,” it continues. Initiatives to cut carbon, like having the Department of Defense reach a goal of 25% renewables by 2025, are characterized as “the triumph of extremism over common sense.”

The platform supports “development of all forms of energy that are marketable in a free economy without subsidies including coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear power, and hydropower.” (The context here suggests an assumption that these traditional energy supplies operate without subsidies.) It also supports “expediting the permitting process for mineral production on public lands.” It urges private sector resources for the development of carbon capture and sequestration technology.

The Republican platform opposes any carbon tax and would do away with the Clean Power Plan. Specifically, it touts coal as an “abundant, clean, affordable, reliable domestic energy resource.” It goes on to state “[W]e must expedite the energy export terminals currently blocked by the Administration.”

DEMOCRATIC PARTY PLATFORM 2016

“Climate change is an urgent threat and a defining challenge of our time,” according to the Democratic platform. It notes global temperature records, rising seas affecting American cities, years of drought, wildfires and flash floods. The platform commits to President Barack Obama’s pledge at the Paris Agreement that aims to keep global temperature rise “well below” two degrees Celsius.

In addition, it commits to getting “50% of our electricity from clean energy sources within a decade,” and “eliminating special tax breaks and subsidies for fossil fuel companies as well as defending and extending tax incentives for energy efficiency and clean energy.” The platform also commits to “defending and extending smart pollution and efficiency standards, including the Clean Power Plan.” It is silent on carbon capture and sequestration.

“The fight against climate change must not leave any community out or behind – including the coal communities who kept America’s lights on for generations.”  It pledges to fight to make sure workers and their families get the benefits they have earned… and to “make new investments in energy-producing communities to help create jobs.” The platform opposes “harmful and dangerous extraction practices, like mountaintop removal mining operations.”

Finally, it supports the “need to reform fossil fuel leasing on public lands,” and will “phase down extraction of fossil fuels from our public lands.”

LIBERTARIAN PARTY PLATFORM 2016

The Libertarian platform is succinct as far as energy goes:

“While energy is needed to fuel a modern society, government should not be subsidizing any particular form of energy. We oppose all government control of energy pricing, allocation and production.”

US GREEN PARTY PLATFORM 2016

“The Green Party advocates a rapid reduction in energy consumption through energy efficiency and a decisive transition away from fossil and nuclear power toward cleaner, renewable, local energy sources.” The first plank in that goal is to “encourage conservation and a significant decrease in our energy consumption,” by instituting national energy efficiency standards.

It advocates the phase-out of nuclear and coal power plants, calls for a ban on mountaintop removal coal mining, notes the absence of commercially viable ‘clean coal’, “which may never be feasible.” It states “coal is neither an economically nor an environmentally sustainable solution.” And “ratepayers should get full disclosure of the specific electric generating facilities used to produce their electricity.

Furthermore, the platform calls for smart grid upgrades, but also advocates for “decentralized, bioregional electricity generation and distribution.” It supports “electrification of road-based vehicles” and says “we must move to Earth-gentle electricity generation to charge the vehicles.”

It concludes with: “challenging yet feasible targets should be set, with the ultimate goal – complete freedom from fossil fuel dependency – to be achieved by 2050.”