At their respective national conventions in late July, the Democratic and Republican Parties established the policy platforms on which their respective federal, state and local candidates will base their election campaigns. Those platforms present very different prescriptions for the US energy sector.

The energy plank of the 2016 Democratic Party platform, “Combat Climate Change, Build a Clean Energy Economy, and Secure Environmental Justice,” focuses on addressing climate change, pledging to “reduce methane emissions from all oil and gas production and transportation by at least 40 to 45% below 2005 levels by 2025,” reducing oil and natural gas consumption and increasing renewable energy use. In contrast, the energy plank of the 2016 Republican platform, “A New Era in Energy,” focuses on state as opposed to federal regulation of the energy sector and increased domestic energy production, including oil, natural gas and nuclear, as well as on federal lands.

The Democratic and Republican Party platforms also present fundamentally opposing positions on a number of energy sector issues.

With respect to hydraulic fracturing – “fracking” – the Democrats “are committed to closing the Halliburton loophole that stripped the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of its ability to regulate hydraulic fracturing,” and “believe hydraulic fracturing should not take place where states and local communities oppose it,” while the Republicans “support upholding” the decision of a federal judge who “has struck down the [Bureau of Land Management’s] rule on hydraulic fracturing,” and “respect the states’ proven ability to regulate the use of hydraulic fracturing, methane emissions, and horizontal drilling.”

The Republicans “intend to finish the Keystone Pipeline,” while the Democrats “support President Obama’s decision to reject the Keystone XL pipeline.”
The Democrats believe “the tax code must reflect our commitment to a clean energy future by eliminating special tax breaks and subsidies for fossil fuel companies as well as defending and extending tax incentives for energy efficiency and clean energy.” On the other hand, the Republicans “support the development of all forms of energy that are marketable in a free economy without subsidies, including coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear power, and hydropower,” and “encourage the cost-effective development of renewable energy sources – wind, solar, biomass, biofuel, geothermal, and tidal energy – by private capital.”

The Republicans “oppose any carbon tax” and “urge the private sector to focus its resources on the development of carbon capture and sequestration technology still in its early stages here and overseas,” while the Democrats believe that “carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gases should be priced to reflect their negative externalities, and to accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy and help meet our climate goals.”

The Democrats “are committed to defending, implementing and extending smart pollution and efficiency standards, including the Clean Power Plan, fuel economy standards for automobiles and heavy-duty vehicles, building codes and appliance standards, while the Republicans “will do away with [the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan] altogether.”

The Republicans “support the enactment of policies to increase domestic energy production, including production on public lands, to counter market manipulation by OPEC and other nationally-owned oil companies,” while the Democrats “believe America must be running entirely on clean energy by mid-century” and “are committed to getting 50% of our electricity from clean energy sources within a decade, with half a billion solar panels installed within four years and enough renewable energy to power every home in the country.”

While the Democrats commit to “transform American transportation by reducing oil consumption through cleaner fuels, vehicle electrification increasing the fuel efficiency of cars, boilers, ships, and trucks,” and “make new investments in public transportation and build bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure across our urban and suburban areas,” the Republican platform does not address this issue.

While the Republicans posit that “American energy producers should be free to export their product to foreign markets,” and “remain committed to aggressively expanding trade opportunities and opening new markets for American energy through multilateral and bilateral agreements, whether current, pending, or negotiated in the future,” the Democratic Party platform does not address US energy exports.

One issue on which the two parties might be said to agree is promoting new electricity transmission lines. The Democrats pledge to “streamline federal permitting to accelerate the construction of new transmission lines to get low-cost renewable energy to market,” while the Republicans “applaud” congressional Republicans for passing bills that “will modernize pipelines and the electric grid” and promising to “build on these policies.”