THE ENERGY POLICY THAT WILL SWING THE VOTE IN THE HEARTLANDS
"The short memories of American voters is what keeps our politicians in office." (Will Rogers)
Research shows the most effective political lies are those promising people what they want. It presumably follows that if a politician can't tell people what they want to hear, he would avoid saying anything.
Which explains this item about the presidential campaigns in the heartlands via the Cincinnati Enquirer: “When the candidates talk about energy, what's left unsaid is this: The American lifestyle of bigger houses and more cars is built on inexpensive, available energy - and those days may be ending.”
McMansions and freeway commuting are not habits cultivated exclusively by residents of the megalopolises on the blue coasts. The rising cost of heating and cooling and lighting and commuting is being felt in the November 4 "swing" state of Ohio and even in the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky region.
Len Ellis, manufacturing engineer, on his daily 42-mile 1-way commute from Sparta, Ky., to Cincinnati: "I love it here and would never move, but I did start rethinking that commute this summer when the prices went up…when the prices go from $3.70 a gallon to $4.89 in a month like they did this summer, that's big…"
Duke Energy, the region’s biggest utility, has requested permission from regulators to raise power rates 6% over the next 3 years.
Keith Trent, group executive/chief strategy, policy and regulatory officer, Duke: "Here's the reality: Energy prices are most definitely going up…"
How does this impact the election?
While some states, like California, have shifted a significant and growing portion of their power generation to New Energy and a bigger portion of their power generation to natural gas, much of the middle part of the U.S., like the Greater Cincinnati region, still depends largely on coal.
While commuters in many metro areas on the blue coasts can resort to widely-used public transportation, citizens in the heartland cities rely almost entirely on their cars – and trucks and SUVs.
Result: Greater Cincinnati has the 3rd biggest emissions per capita of the top 100 U.S. metropolitan areas - and the numbers are worsening.
The point: Both candidates have plans to cut emissions. Those plans, it is widely believed, will drive energy prices higher. That matters a LOT in the heartlands.
The Cincinnati Enquirer: “Policy decisions by the next president and Congress will be critical in our region.”
The cap-and-trade system both candidates have promised will only enhance this impact.
Severin Borenstein, professor of business and public policy, University of California at Berkeley and director, UC Energy Institute: "So far, neither candidate has been willing to say that this will not be cheap…And it will not be cheap."
An October 4-to-8 poll of Cincinnati voters showed 49% believe their standard of living is worse than that of their parents.
Robert K. Kaufmann, director, Boston University Center for Energy and Environmental Studies: "The fraction of income that U.S. consumers spent on energy hit 4 percent in the 1990s, but that percentage has nearly doubled…"
Which candidate will make voters believe he can turn all that around?
Here’s the data: A September poll showed 55% of Ohio voters see New Energy investment as the most important priority for U.S. energy policy. Advantage Obama?
59% of Ohio voters approve of building more nuclear plants to generate power. Advantage McCain?
The likelihood is that heartland voters, hurting right now, are not in the mood for promises that will take a long time to come true. Therefore, their votes will go to whichever candidate can convince them his plan (“all of the above/drill baby drill” vs. “New Energy for America/a green New Deal”) will have the most immediate impact.
The most recent polls show Ohio tilting toward Obama and Kentucky hard for McCain.
Severin Borenstein, professor of business and public policy, University of California at Berkeley and director, UC Energy Institute: "Energy is the only commodity in America where consumers will not ... absorb fluctuation, because the way we live demands that we have to buy gas and electricity…There have been plenty of politicians who have spoken the hard truth and you never even hear of them because that's not the way to get to Congress or to the presidency."
League of Conservation Voters assessment of McCain
League of Conservation Voters assessment of Obama
McCain energy policy statement
Obama energy policy statement
click for complete and updated polling info from RealClearPolitics
Energy issues getting short shrift; Candidates loathe to address regions hard truths
James Pilcher, October 26, 2008 (Cincinnati Enquirer)
Presidential candidates (Democratic Senator Barack Obama, Republican Senator John McCain); Severin Borenstein, professor of business and public policy, University of California at Berkeley and director, UC Energy Institute; Robert K. Kaufmann, director, Boston University Center for Energy and Environmental Studies; Keith Trent, group executive/chief strategy, policy and regulatory officer, Duke Energy; Len Ellis, Cincinnati region commuter
How will the candidates’ energy policies will impact the U.S. heartlands?
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- Southwest Ohio/Northern Kentucky motorists paid 28% more for gasoline in 2008 than in 2007. So far, predictions have prices staying at 2008 levels in 2009.
- 2000 to 2005: Greater Cincinnati per capita emissions worsened 12% while the nation’s worsened 2.2% and the 100 biggest cities worsened 1.1%.
- Election day is November 4.
- The article looks at the impacts of the candidates’ energy policies on the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky region.
- Duke Energy is based in Charlotte, N.C.
- The Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky region is among the nation's biggest energy-hogs.
- Ohio gets 86% of its electricity from coal and less than 1% from non-hydro New Energy.
- Kentucky gets 87% of its electricity from coal and less than 1% from non-hydro New Energy.
- Census data shows homes in the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky region are getting bigger and more expensive to heat and cool.
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- Robert K. Kaufmann, director, Boston University Center for Energy and Environmental Studies: "Consumers get squeezed, and it leaves less money to spend on everything else. And what happens then? ... All those individual decisions to spend less in the past have gotten us into recessions…"
- Severin Borenstein, professor of business and public policy, University of California at Berkeley and director, UC Energy Institute:"Politicians are not going to make any progress by saying that energy prices are going to be higher and that we just need to get used to it…"