The Slatest

The Painfully Obvious Omission From Jeb Bush’s Overly Familiar Energy Plan

Jeb Bush speaks at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library Aug. 11, 2015, in Simi Valley, California.

Photo by Jonathan Alcorn/Getty Images

Jeb Bush went back to a familiar well on Tuesday, offering up a multipronged energy policy proposal designed to make fossil fuels cheaper, more plentiful, and more profitable. Unsurprisingly—though no less disappointingly—the Republican hopeful’s plan makes absolutely no mention of man-made climate change, let alone offers a single proposal to address it.

Bush’s pitch will look awfully familiar to anyone who’s been paying attention to the GOP’s energy agenda of late. He wants to: end the 40-year-old ban on crude-oil exports and ease restrictions on natural-gas exports; block a whole host of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s regulations, including President Obama’s landmark Clean Power Plan (which Jeb rebrands “Obama’s Carbon Rule”—catchy!); give states more control over energy development on nearby federal lands and waters; and—of course—approve construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. Taken as a whole, Jeb’s plan is a little more nuanced than “Drill, baby, drill,” but it comes with the same oil and gas-themed cheerleading message.

The fact that Bush’s plan is largely a retread of conservative policies we’ve seen before isn’t a problem in and of itself; the problem is that those policies have long been built on the foundation of the Republican Party’s failure to accept, acknowledge, or even seriously talk about the scientific consensus about man’s significant contributions to global warming. Climate scientists have already made it clear that for the world to avoid the most catastrophic effects of climate change, the fossil fuel industry needs to start leaving oil and gas in the ground, and soon. Tellingly, though, Jeb unveiled his proposal online on his campaign website in a post that clocked in at more than 1,300 words, none of which were “climate change,” “global warming,” or even “science.” Instead, Bush makes it clear that near-term economic gain through increased domestic production is his No. 1 priority.

“More domestic energy leads to more jobs, higher wages, lower gas prices and smaller electricity bills,” he writes. “In short, it means more money in people’s pockets, allowing them more freedom to make more choices for themselves and their children.” (In an interview with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, meanwhile, Jeb made sure to decry Obama and Hillary Clinton’s carbon-curbing priorities as “some sort of environmental socialist agenda.”)

Jeb wants his plan viewed in the context of his campaign pledge to grow the economy by 4 percent, a sustained rate that this country hasn’t seen in two decades. My colleague Jordan Weissmann has already explained why that goal is both arbitrary and likely unattainable over any significant period of time, but this specific energy proposal illustrates some of the other creative math Jeb’s willing to engage in to come up with the answer he wants to see.*

By taking credit for the short-term economic gains he’s predicting will come with increased fossil fuel production but ignoring the many, many, many economic and social costs of climate change that such production will exacerbate—from infrastructure damage caused by increasingly extreme weather to more heat-related deaths—Bush is effectively offering up a business plan that lists all the expected revenues while intentionally leaving out a large chunk of the expenses. Jeb, of course, is not alone in this type of willful ignorance. Republicans argue against the science of climate change exactly because it frees them from the responsibility of finding a solution.

This isn’t just an implicit effort by the GOP either. This past Friday, the Republican-led House moved to codify this ignorance into law when it passed legislation to streamline environmental analysis and permit decisions conducted by the federal government. Tucked away in the bill was a climate provision that bars the federal agencies from considering the “social cost of carbon,” which, as the National Journal’s Ben Geman explains, covers the monetary costs of things like “damages from greater flood risks and changes in agriculture productivity.”

Jeb’s energy rollout, meanwhile, is part of his larger effort to establish himself as a policy heavyweight in a Republican field currently devoid of any serious policy discussion. In the world of campaign politics, Bush’s energy-but-specifically-not-climate plan might look like the work of a man willing to get serious. In the real word, though, the plan is the same old GOP joke.

*Correction, Sept. 29, 2015: An earlier version of this post misspelled Jordan Weissmann’s last name. Sorry, Jordan!