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GOP and Energy: It’s Time for the Tail to Stop Wagging the Dog | Commentary

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).

We agree with leading Republicans who have said we don’t need to be the “anti-science” party. It’s bad policy, and, as numerous public polls have shown, it’s also bad politics.

When it comes to where many Republicans on the Hill are when compared to where actual Republican voters are on the question of energy solutions it is clear that the tail is the wagging the dog — and for the future of our party, the country and our planet that must change.

The organization I lead — Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions — is made up of right-of-center Americans who believe the GOP can and should lead on energy.

We believe America can lead the world in developing comprehensive and responsible energy solutions that can reduce pollution, improve public health, secure our energy future and grow our economy.

We believe strongly that we will not find a way forward until Republicans and Democrats work to find common-sense solutions. As Americans, we know our country works best when we work together.

Rank-and-file Republicans like myself care about our environment and recognize the importance of finding clean energy solutions.

While some in Washington may choose to play politics with energy issues in the weeks and months ahead, we sincerely hope that men and women of good faith will veer from that script and commit to working together.

James Dozier is the executive director of Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions.

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