This obsession with coal and oil strikes me as wrongheaded for three reasons. First, there is a more intelligent conservative energy strategy: a campaign to develop an energy mix that is “American, diverse and clean.” Put the G.O.P. behind whatever fuel sources or technologies the marketplace produces — be they natural gas, wind, wave, solar, nuclear, efficiency, biofuels or sequestered coal — provided they’re produced in America, give us diversity of supply and steadily move us to cleaner air.
Second, this slavish devotion to coal and oil, and sneering at environmentalism, contradicts the G.O.P.’s long tradition of environmental stewardship that some Republicans are still proud of: Teddy Roosevelt bequeathed us national parks, Richard Nixon the Clean Air Act and the Environmental Protection Agency, Ronald Reagan the Montreal Protocol to protect the ozone layer and George H. W. Bush cap-and-trade that reduced acid rain. Does the G.O.P. really think it will attract the idealism of next-generation voters with mottos like “Coal = Jobs”?
And, finally, the G.O.P.’s Tea Party base has grown more hostile than ever to conservation just when some big conservation groups have redefined their missions — from protecting nature for its own sake, a noble goal, to also protecting our “natural infrastructure” that provides jobs, food and security.