Politics & Policy

Rubio Has the Best and Most Serious Energy Plan

The Florida senator understands that vigorous development and competition will make America stronger, more prosperous, freer, and more secure.

A war for the future of the world is going on right now. It includes some regular military action, but the outcome is going to be settled by control over the global supply of fuel and funds. That is why there can be no more important issue facing our next commander-in-chief than energy policy.

The Democrats are worse than hopeless in this respect, and unfortunately, many of the GOP campaigns have been mired in atmospherics and irrelevancies. But at least one of the Republican aspirants has risen to the challenge: Marco Rubio.

In a word, Rubio’s energy policy is excellent. It consists of three major thrusts; optimize America’s resources, minimize government bureaucracy, and maximize private innovation. I discuss each of these in turn.

1. Maximize America’s resources.

Rubio’s plan to achieve this objective includes eight elements: empowering states and tribes to control energy development within their borders, liberating offshore drilling, approving the Keystone pipeline, lifting the federal ban on crude exports, lifting the federal blockade on natural-gas exports, defending U.S. interests in climate talks, bolstering the energy security of our allies, and ensuring that the impending trans-Pacific trade agreement does not restrict U.S. energy exports.

These ideas stand out in the sharpest opposition to those of the Obama administration and its would-be Clinton sequel. Obama’s underlying rationale is illustrated by his recent, scandalous decision to blockade the export of Canadian oil to the U.S. for the express purpose of trying to make sure that it stays off the market. In contrast, Rubio’s policy is organized around the idea that everything should be done to help get American and allied oil out of the ground and into the world market.

The power of Putin and OPEC rests on their ability to control the world’s fuel supplies and reap the profits and leverage from overpriced exports to those under their thumbs. The Democrats’ policy is effectively designed to ensure that North America does not interfere with this racket. Rubio’s is designed to ensure that it does.

2. Minimize government bureaucracy.

Rubio’s plan for this includes creating a regulatory budget to limit the power of unelected bureaucrats, stopping Obama’s carbon mandates, exposing the cost of environmental litigation to taxpayers, and simplifying and improving the environmental review process.

The value of these initiatives for promoting the growth of American energy production is self-evident, but they go far beyond that. What Rubio is doing here is taking action to protect American liberty by launching a direct assault on the power of the regulatory state.

The problem with the Obama administration’s carbon mandates is not merely that they would destroy 40 percent of American power-generation capacity, and thus impose immense replacement costs on the public. It is that they represent a vast, unconstitutional seizure of power and arbitrary destruction of trillions of dollars of private property by unelected but seemingly omnipotent bureaucrats. This needs to be stopped, or the entire concept of limited constitutional government goes out the window.

Obama’s carbon mandates are a vast, unconstitutional seizure of power and arbitrary destruction of trillions of dollars of private property by unelected but seemingly omnipotent bureaucrats.

In his detailed discussion of these points, Rubio also takes the necessary direct aim at the corrupt practice followed by the EPA, in league with allied environmentalist groups. In these collusions, the environmentalists sue the EPA in court for some regulatory change, and rather than defend the existing laws, the EPA Quislings readily concede the case and negotiate a court order putting the power of the state behind a new and more restrictive policy. This farce needs to end, and it is refreshing that a major presidential candidate has finally called it out for termination.

3. Encourage private innovation.

Rubio’s blueprint in this area calls for reforming higher education, facilitating private-sector-led development of new technology, and cutting taxes for businesses of all sizes. These are all good ideas that will benefit not just energy, but all sectors of the economy. Particularly noteworthy is Rubio’s education policy, which includes the following pledge: “As president, I will break the education cartel, making room for low-cost innovative education providers who may not be accredited under the outdated system. This will help prepare graduates for high-paying jobs at a fraction of the time and cost of a traditional four-year degree, providing energy and other sectors with workers trained for the 21st century.”

This is potentially revolutionary. The overpriced higher-education system has become a massive poll tax, barring the way for children of low-income parents to join high-paying professions. If Rubio can bust this racket, he will create unprecedented opportunities for millions.

So, as far as it goes, Rubio’s energy policy is superb. Are any elements missing from it? Yes, there are a few. The most glaring omission is in the area of nuclear energy, which goes unmentioned. Since the Carter administration, Democrats have waged war on nuclear energy, creating networks of regulations, agencies, court processes, and other complications that collectively have increased the time it takes to build a nuclear power plant from four years to 16 years, greatly increasing its capital cost. Furthermore, they have acted to block the establishment of safe nuclear-waste-storage facilities, thereby imposing further costs (and risks — it’s much safer for nuclear waste to be stored under a mountain in Nevada than in a major metropolitan suburb) on the public. This needs to be dealt with.

Another omission is in the area of creating fuel choice. America has a huge natural-gas glut, as well as vast supplies of coal, and both could be turned into cheap, high-performance, very clean-burning automobile fuel in the form of methanol. With a simple software upgrade, cars can be made equally capable of running on methanol and gasoline, thereby giving motorists a choice of fuel and putting permanent competitive constraint on the price of oil. Unfortunately, however, the EPA has banned such conversions, thereby creating an artificial wall that is preventing America’s most plentiful resources from being useful in meeting our transportation-fuel needs. This blockade needs to be broken too.

So it doesn’t cover everything, but overall, the plan is terrific. Furthermore, the spirit of the plan – set America free — suggests that, whether everything is mentioned now or not, should its progenitor reach the White House, what needs to be done, will be done.

Rubio’s energy plan would greatly strengthen the western alliance while unhinging the power of its adversaries. It would unleash America’s economic growth, repel the bureaucrats’ onslaught against American liberty, and open vast new opportunities for millions of America’s youth. It sets the gold standard for what a presidential platform should be, and marks its author with a touch of greatness.

Robert Zubrin — Robert Zubrin is president of Pioneer Astronautics and of the Mars Society. His next book, The Case for Space: How the Revolution in Spaceflight Opens Up a Future of Limitless Possibility, will be published by Prometheus Books in 2019.

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