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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Cheap-energy conservatives

John Hood wants conservatives to campaign as partisans of cheap energy:
Conservatives should welcome the opportunity to elevate energy as an election issue. The best strategy to follow isn't dissimilar from using the tax issue to distinguish candidates and as a proxy for broader concerns about government size and intrusiveness. Put it to the voters clearly: My opponent wants to raise your electric bill and your gas prices, with higher taxes, more regulations, and more wasteful subsidies to corrupt special-interest groups. I will stop him, and work to cut your electric bill and your gas prices.
First, do conservatives campaign as advocates of cheap money, promising low interest rates and easy loans? No, because they (generally) understand that such policies have pernicious consequences. Cheap energy is similar. It's instant gratification that causes long-term problems.

Second, there isn't necessarily a clear-cut choice between free-market cheap energy and government-mandated expensive energy. A lot of government action past and present has been aimed at keeping energy prices low, with price controls, hidden subsidies and so on.

Third, even as a matter of crass politics, "I will work to cut your electric bill and your gas prices" is a likely loser. Energy is a declining portion of GDP, so economically people are less vulnerable to high energy costs than ever before, which probably is a factor in growing enthusiasm for environmental causes.

A candidate who says "I support a carbon tax, along with an end to the ethanol subsidy and to other measures that do little to improve our economy or environment" would be more deserving of votes, and just possibly more likely to get them.

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