Give My Children The Lightning Again (Part 3 of 3): Rick Perry on Energy and The Environment

When Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle coauthored the dystopic novel Lucifer’s Hammer, they focused heavily on issues of resource management. In the end of the novel, one of the protagonist characters expired uttering the following last words: “Give my children the lightning again.”


Yet the challenge of giving future Americans (like my two children) the motive power to enjoy a lifestyle comparable to my own is fraught with tradeoffs amongst varying negative externalities. An intricate balance of policy is required to both power the future and preserve our natural environment from what Garrett Hardin famously termed The Tragedy of The Commons. Thus, energy and environmental policy becomes a difficult exercise in risk management and tradeoff. In Part 1; I discussed GOP Candidate Michele Bachmann’s plans to work through this conundrum. Part II focused on Mitt Romney. Today we address the policies and ideas of Texas Governor, Rick Perry.

Governor Perry’s newly-refurbished Campaign Website, advertises Rick Perry as a “Champion of Conservative Principals.” While the issues page of the website doesn’t specifically call out issues related to energy or the environment, the site does feature a recent endorsement of Gov. Perry from Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla). The Senator issued the following statement along with the endorsement.

One of the important areas is reigning in over-regulation. Rick Perry is strong against the Cap and Trade tax that would further devastate our economy and do nothing but move jobs overseas to places like China. He is one of the few who understand this, and he won’t cave in to the extreme environmental activists or the Hollywood crowd and their liberal agenda.

This allows us to ascertain that either A) Rick Perry is not convinced that Global Warming is a significant enough problem to justify expensive regulatory action, or B) Empowering the USEPA would run counter to Governor Perry’s pronounced stance against expanding government spending and the power of the regulatory state. He states without equivocation that a smaller government that regulates lightly creates more jobs. Thus, the probable source of Governor Perry’s opposition to Cap-and-Trade would be C) All of the above.


However, Rick Perry is not as anti-environmentalist as Rolling Stone Magazine and several other publications have pointed him out to be. His opposition to carbon taxation and to the declaration of wildlife sanctuaries as a tactic to reduce the accessibility of reservoirs has caused environmental groups to voice skepticism about Rick Perry. His recent condemnation of the EPA’s recent power generation regulations also ruffled the feathers of regulation advocates. Governor Perry described these rules as follows.

“Today’s EPA announcement is another example of heavy-handed and misguided action from Washington, D.C., that threatens Texas jobs and families and puts at risk the reliable and affordable electricity our state needs to succeed. From the attack on Texas’ successful clean air program, to threatening endangered species listings in West Texas oil fields, to banning offshore energy exploration, the Obama Administration seems intent on increasing energy costs for American consumers and making us even more dependent on foreign energy.

What isn’t mentioned in the polemics is the extent to which Rick Perry has policed the environment in Texas when left alone. Perry champions a flexible permitting program to reduce Tropospheric O3 and NOx pollution in urban air sheds. Governor Perry has also attempted to assert Federalism and move ahead with Superfund Site clean-ups that were being delayed by Federal inaction. He has joined other governors to request that the Federal Government amend and update several environmental regulations. These include The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (Superfund), The Clean Air Act, and The Clean Water Act.


On Energy issues, Governor Perry naturally champions the expansion of domestic oil production and would want to lift the moratorium on drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. He issued the following press release when Texas filed a lawsuit to make President Obama lift the ban.

“Once again, the Obama Administration has demonstrated a flagrant disregard for the rights and economies of states and the well-being of those whose jobs depend upon a safe and vibrant energy industry, many of whom live in Texas,” Gov. Perry said.

He furthermore has invested heavily in wind power as an alternate energy source. (Not a surprising move for a Governor of Texas). Texas has become the leading US State in wind power by a large margin. He has been a proponent of eliminating red tape from the permitting process of new power generation and energy transport systems.

Candidate Perry has a record of both innovation and opposition to heavy regulation involving Energy and the Environment. He has constantly pushed to get the Federal Government to leave Texas to its own devices on these issues. It may well be fun to watch if President Perry would show the same forbearance if some cocky state governor requested the same from him.

Rick Perry favors certain environmental regulations, but prefers them implemented by the lowest level of authority possible. He also wants them to be clear, decisive and as bureaucracy-free as possible. This has caused him to cross swords with the Obama Administration on several environmental issues. He has also championed both fossil fuel and alternative energy sources to improve domestic supply. He has expressed concern over the age and condition of energy transport and infrastructure facilities. On balance, Governor Perry has shown the most comprehensive and consistent interest in both energy and the environment of any GOP candidate up to this point in the race.



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