How Election 2012 affects energy policy

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Today voters across the United States cast ballots in the 2012 general election. At stake are a broad range of political offices, ranging from the presidency to local municipal roles. How will the election's outcomes affect energy policy, energy-related businesses, and consumers?

The presidential contest has drawn the greatest attention over the past year. Whether President Obama will retain his office or Governor Romney will take the White House is the largest question. Based on the candidates' past actions and current campaign platforms, voters have some sense of how each would exercise his presidential powers. On energy issues, both candidates appear to favor increased domestic production of natural gas and oil. The candidates differ in their philosophies on the role of governmental incentives and subsidies -- whether for fossil fuel production or for renewable electricity generation -- and on emissions regulations for coal-fired and other power plants. The candidates also disagree on specific energy projects and programs ranging from the Keystone XL pipeline to the Navy's Great Green Fleet biofuels initiative.

Beyond the presidency, federal elections will determine the composition of Congress. While energy policy is more sensitive to presidential changes than to individual congressional elections, the makeup of Congress drives federal energy policy in the aggregate. All seats in the House of Representatives are up for grabs, as are a third of Senate seats. Of the 33 Senate seats, Democrats need to win 21 seats to retain their majority while Republicans need to win 14 seats to take control. The senators elected in 2012 will participate in setting any national energy policy.

State elections will also shape energy policy for the coming years. Voters will select governors in 11 states, and state legislative offices are widely contested. While federal energy policy draws the most attention, the U.S. federalist system leaves significant authority to individual states to set their own policies on energy issues. For example, states may establish electric renewable portfolio standards or otherwise regulate the resource mix used to produce usable energy. The outcomes of state elections will also affect policies on energy efficiency, smart meters and smart grid infrastructure.

Voters in some states will also cast ballots on measures directly affecting energy policy, such as the Michigan citizens' initiative seeking to increase utilities' use of electricity produced by renewable resources.

It may be some time until all the ballots are finally counted, but by tomorrow night we will have a better understanding of the results for most of the races and ballot questions. Those who can translate the election results into an understanding of future policies - and business opportunities - will have a leg up on the competition.

No comments:

Post a Comment