In a December 2009 op-ed in The Journal Times, after stopping just short of completely denying the existence and dangers of climate change, Rep. Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney’s newly announced running mate wrote: “Environmental stewardship and economic growth are not mutually exclusive goals, and I will continue to fight for both.” His website similarly boasts that “a clean environment and strong conservation programs are of the utmost concern” to Ryan.
Yet despite these politically correct statements, Ryan’s voting record and economic proposal, the so-called “Roadmap for America’s Future,” make clear that not only is he opposed to any government intervention to protect the environment and slow climate change, when given the opportunity to stimulate economic growth and preserve our natural resources simultaneously, he chooses neither.
As a seven term congressman and the architect of the Romney-endorsed “Roadmap,” Ryan has given voters plenty of insights into what a Romney/Ryan presidency would mean for our environment, energy plan and the Earth’s ever-rising temperature.
Ryan’s Voting Record
A staunch conservative and opponent of government regulation, it’s no surprise Ryan would support legislation like the June 2012 Domestic Energy and Jobs Act. The act makes access to federal lands for oil and gas extraction the default instead of the exception by, for example, automatically approving applications for drilling permits if the Secretary of the Interior hasn’t responded within 60 days, requiring that 25 percent of federal lands always be available for oil and gas leasing, and preventing organizations and individuals from protesting these leases. His votes against the 2009 Cap-and-Trade Bill and a July 2010 measure to impose more regulations on offshore drilling are similarly expected. But several votes during his time in the House show that Ryan does not just want deregulate the use of our natural resources, he is willing to do it at the expense of economic growth.
For example, Ryan voted against a comprehensive energy bill in September 2008 that, in addition to extending tax incentives for renewable energy firms, also lifted a 27-year ban on oil and gas drilling on the Outer Continental Shelf. Doing so would have stimulated the fossil fuel and renewable energy sectors, but most likely Ryan, like other Republicans, was resistant to the measure for not providing sufficient financial incentives for drilling.
He also cast nay votes against a September 2010 bill authorizing loans for homes and farms to update their energy efficiencies, which included a preference for veterans, and a 2008 bill extending energy efficiency tax credits to individuals and businesses. That Ryan would oppose cutting tax incentives for oil companies in order to help those working in renewables shows how his support for Americans and their businesses is reserved only for those exploiting the environment. Despite Mitt Romney’s promise that his government would “not be in the business of steering investment toward politically favored approaches,” this appears to be exactly what Paul Ryan has been doing in his career.
Ryan has also fought against the EPA’s authority to perform some of its most basic regulatory tasks, voting against its right to regulate greenhouse gases through support of the Energy Tax Prevention Act in 2011 as well as its ability to impose water quality standards by opposing the July 2011 Amending Clean Water Laws bill.
Ryan’s Economic Plan
Ryan’s economic proposal, considered by many pundits to be a bold attempt to reshape federal policy similarly, looks to severely limit the government’s role in protecting the environment while making it significantly easier and more profitable for Big Oil to exploit it. Like his voting record, his budget plan would speed up oil exploration in the Gulf of Mexico and back tax breaks for oil companies – worth as much as $45 billion over ten years – while calling for significantly cutting funding for the EPA. (In June, the Daily Beast pointed to the financial benefits the Ryans stand to gain from implementation of this plan. “The financial disclosure report Ryan filed with Congress last month and made public this week shows he and his wife, Janna, own stakes in four family companies that lease land in Texas and Oklahoma to the very energy companies that benefit from the tax subsidies in Ryan’s budget plan.”)
Despite Romney’s website’s claim that “government has a role to play in innovation in the energy industry,” he has chosen a running mate who advocates against government funding for clean energy research, development and commercialization. Fuming that, “The stimulus alone allocated $80 billion of taxpayers’ dollars specifically for politically favored renewable-energy interests,” Ryan vows to end “corporate-welfare funding directed to the president’s allied industries.” Of course, as the Daily Beast uncovered, Ryan fully supports industries that line his own pockets.
Josh Freed, director of centrist think tank, Third Way’s energy program said the proposal “protects existing regulated markets and guts innovation — particularly applied research and development that are parts of the valley of death for too many companies — while pulling the rug out from under clean energy deployment.”
Paul Ryan may claim that he does not believe environmental protection and economic growth are mutually exclusive, but his voting record and budget proposal tell a different story. Ryan is not simply looking to boost the economy; he is looking to do it by further enslaving the U.S. to our addiction to oil. He does not want to build our country’s workforce through innovation, but rather through enshrining our continued dependence on fossil fuels.