It’s Blowin’ in the Wind

Politicians usually campaign one way and govern another. Campaigning is about getting plenty of favorable media attention and rounding up delegates to actually get the nomination. Mrs. Clinton, like every other candidate, will look at where she can get the needed delegates and tailor her messages to those voters. Those messages might seem more pragmatic than what has come from the White House but they will still be liberal to attract votes in California, New York, and other liberal states.

It would be hard for her to get to the left of the President, so she will embrace renewables, incentives (aka subsidies), and natural gas development with twists that show she would be different and more effective. Iowa’s importance virtually guarantees a strong agenda for biofuels. Positions on OCS and federal land exploration and production will be nuanced to offend the fewest number.

While she will support increased oil and gas production because of the jobs they create, it is also likely that she will make arguments that the nation has to transition to less polluting fuels, whatever they might be, as well as strong environmental protections. The real challenge is how she handles coal without offending the environmental community and still having a shot at winning in coal states. In all these matters, answers will come from an assessment of her opposition, their effectiveness, and how strong her support is in key states.

As a former Secretary of State, she should be pressed hard on Keystone XL. Continued use of rail cars as a substitute makes no sense nor does sending the oil to China.

Every democratic candidate has to bow at the altar of climate orthodoxy and she will. Actually the evolving White House program, which has been roundly criticized, has a lot to recommend it relative to a Kyoto style treaty with binding targets and timetables. A Pledge and Review approach would at least allow the US to get credit for all that it has done since Kyoto and avoid binding commitments.

A candidate who wanted to be the next chapter in Profiles in Courage would boldly state that there are more important national issues than climate change which after 20+ years of research, analysis, etc. is still poorly understood. But, that kind of candidate only exists in Hollywood productions. Economic growth, job creation, an effective foreign policy, a strong national defense, and tax reform should be the next President’s top priorities.

More important than Mrs. Clinton’s campaign rhetoric is how she would govern if elected. Clearly she would be to the right of President Obama and more of a pragmatist. The metric for judging Hillary Clinton ought not be President Obama or Elizabeth Warren, it should be Margaret Thatcher—a person of principle and conviction.

This article appeared on the National Journal’s Energy Insiders weblog at

Partner & Fellow Blogs