Lewis Offers Pragmatic Energy Policy, Zinke Offers Slogans. Oh, and Flip Flops

Shares

Yesterday, Democrat John Lewis released a detailed energy plan to “make Montana an energy leader” and Ryan Zinke issued a childish response that was as factually-challenged as it was simplistic.

To start with, both men support the Keystone XL pipeline. A key difference is that Lewis would legislatively mandate protections for landowners and that highly-skilled American workers would use high-quality materials to build the pipeline.

Now, as I said before, I don’t support the Keystone XL pipeline and have concerns about relying on coal to power the nation and Montana’s future economy. Those caveats aside, Lewis’s proposal recognizes political reality in the United States: the most viable energy policy in the short-term is to use fossil fuel resources to fund the transition to cleaner energy. It might feel good to demand an immediate shift and ignore the need to transition our economy, but Lewis is offering a pragmatic solution that suggests some real thought.

Critically, Lewis called for an end to the ethanol mandate, a political boondoggle, environmental disaster, and financial sinkhole that Congress passed in the 1970s. That Lewis is calling instead for cellulosic ethanol shows that he’s actually studied the issue, as cellulosic offers substantial benefits in the long-term.  Professor Charles Wyman wrote in 2007 that cellulosic ethanol offers a path to real energy independence for the US:

A sustainable alternative is vital to overcome this dangerous dependence, and biomass is the only known, large-scale, renewable resource that can be converted into the liquid fuels that are so well suited to transportation. Cellulosic ethanol is particularly promising because it can capitalize on the power of biotechnology to dramatically reduce costs, is derived from low cost and plentiful feedstocks, can achieve the high yields vital to success, has high octane and other desirable fuel properties, and is environmentally friendly Although we can hope for a miracle cure for our addiction, we cannot count on one; and prudence dictates the rapid development and deployment of cellulosic ethanol.

In his proposal, Lewis also calls for expanding Montana’s renewable energy standard to the nation and developing Montana as a hub for energy research and development.

In response, his opponent former State Senator Ryan Zinke offered slogans, telling the IR State Bureau:

“His plan is dropping the subsidies for ethanol and then changing it for a subsidy for biofuels,” Zinke said. “I am not for a subsidy across the board. You don’t subsidize wind, ethanol or biofuel. You go to a free market.”

Zinke said the United States has the opportunity to become energy independent, create jobs and attract U.S. manufacturing companies that moved overseas. The energy for that will come primarily from the fossil fuel sector — oil, gas and coal, the former state senator from Whitefish said.

Zinke’s argument is nothing more than a fact-free diatribe Republicans have used for decades to stall the development and use of renewable energy. To argue that energy sources need to “go to a free market” and oppose subsidies is to ignore the billions of dollars of annual subsidies given to oil and coal companies right now. The lowest estimate for annual subsidies for fossil fuel companies in the US is $10 billion annually, which rises to $52 billion if you rightly include the costs of defending pipelines and shipping lanes in the Persian Gulf, something Zinke himself recognized in 2009.

Zinke’s call for free market solutions also inconveniently contradicts positions he’s taken earlier. It turns out he was right in 2009, when he wrote of American energy policy that “Our policy should be to improve efficiency, fund research, store nuclear fuel safely, and build new wind, solar, and biomass facilities.”

I suspect this will be a common pattern in the 2014 Congressional race. Lewis will offer detailed proposals that are subject to scrutiny and reflect the real world, while Senator Zinke will issue catchphrases while striding through fields of wheat telling us what an “American” he is—while contradicting positions he held as recently as a year ago.

We need to demand more of our political leaders than catchphrases and American energy policy is an excellent place to start demanding those answers.

If you appreciate our efforts to hold Montana Republicans accountable and the independent journalism here at The Montana Post, please consider supporting our work with a small pledge.

About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is an eighteen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.

His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.

In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

37
Leave a Reply

avatar
35 Comment threads
0 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
10 Comment authors
DavidMarkTokarskiRobKaileyKevin D CurtisMatthewDownhour Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
Notify of
MarkTokarski
Guest
MarkTokarski

So then, as I understand this, no matter who we vote for, we get Keystone. I take that to mean that the Keystone decision was already made above the level of political, and that voting does not matter. 

You take it to mean that a Democrat Keystone is better than a Republican Keystone.

I gotcha. I will be watching ID with great interesting in the coming days. Lewis appears to be Baucus redux.

dpogreba
Guest

MarkTokarski I know in fantasy of ideological purity it’s easy to win every issues, because you don’t have to even make a passing reference to reality, but this is so typically Tokarskian that I’ll respond. Actually, a Democratic Keystone is marginally better. I’m sure we’ll get better environmental and labor protections from Democrats. Secondly, and this is where it will probably make your brain hurt a little bit, Lewis, as I note, is offering a specific set of proposals that will certainly not make everyone happy. That’s what responsible governance is about. I know how emotionally satisfying it must be… Read more »

Pete Talbot
Guest

The big question for me: is the Keystone XL pipeline a defining issue?  Would enough labor Democrats and Independents not vote for Lewis (and Walsh, if these two came out against the pipeline) to make a difference in the election?   The pipeline is almost a defining issue for me — although I will unenthusiastically vote for Lewis and Walsh because Zinke and Daines are reprobates. This is a tough one for me, Don.  In the U.S. Senate primary, Dirk Adams, the only one of the three Democratic candidates to come out against the Keystone XL placed third.  I think… Read more »

Helena Insider
Guest
Helena Insider

Pete Talbot I think your comments are very thoughtful.  But yes – XL is a defining issue.  You are right that not that many people will actually be employed as Pipefitters, etc. but the vast majority of Montanans relate to the XL in some way or another.  We need people like Lewis and Walsh and Tester who support the XL, but with stipulations… stipulations the GOP would not put in place.

I also think it’s great that Lewis has put Zinke on his heels.

dpogreba
Guest

Pete Talbot I think it’s complicated for me because Keystone XL is far more symbolically significant than it is practically significant. That oil is going to get moved if we don’t build the pipeline, so those who attempt to link KXL to the collapse of human civilization are overreaching. 

I think building it is the wrong decision, but I also suspect that Lewis and Walsh aren’t supporting it for purely political reasons. I think they believe it’s good for the state, even if I disagree with them.

MarkTokarski
Guest
MarkTokarski

dpogreba MarkTokarski I don’t hurt for substance. And it’s not that you don’t win get everything you want or win every issue. It’s that you don’t know how to fight. Your notion that “we’ll get better environmental and labor protections from Democrats” is without substance, and is a faith-based notionThe only difference between Democrats and Republicans is campaign rhetoric. That’s all you’re harping on here, rhetoric. It means knotting, especially knowing as I do that if Lewis Si elected, you will not hold him accountable anyway. You are not only a faith-based voter, but also a fear based one. You will… Read more »

Pete Talbot
Guest

dpogreba Pete Talbot I agree that opposing KXL is more symbolically significant than practically significant.  But symbols are important.  And the environmental havoc created by tar sands extraction, plus our continued reliance on carbon-based fuels, plus the fact that the oil needs to be transported 2000 miles across Middle-America so it can be shipped to other countries, plus the really small employment numbers after the pipeline is built, plus … well, you get my drift.

Really, anything that can be done to slow the extraction of tar sands oil is a win, in my book.

RobKailey
Guest
RobKailey

MarkTokarski Yes, just as who we voted for insured passage of the FJRA.

Oh wait …

namelessrange
Guest
namelessrange

MarkTokarski  “Your notion that “we’ll get better environmental and labor protections from Democrats” is without substance, and is a faith-based notion” We get that neither are up to your snuff in terms of desired environmental protections. Even given worst case scenarios, One is worse than the other. One side gives us mandated logging and paltry wilderness designations, the other, gives us the Roadless Area Release Act and the Death of public lands via transfer to the states. One is worse than the other. Unless you are using the word “same” in a way in which we typically would not use… Read more »

MarkTokarski
Guest
MarkTokarski

namelessrange MarkTokarski Of course one is worse than the other, but the key is that no matter who wins, we lose. I maintain, and I know smart people disagree, that we are better off with Republicans in office, because then at least you Democrats are awake and paying attention, and we can stop some of this stuff.  Have you contacted your governor about putting up five million acres of roadless land for development? What? You haven’t? Why not? Will you help vote him out of office? What, you won’t? You say that no matter how bad he is, he’s better than… Read more »

MarkTokarski
Guest
MarkTokarski

RobKailey MarkTokarski I was espeically impressed with the way Tester was transparent, letting everyboyd know in 2006 what he intended for our roadless lands. 
Oh, wait. He didn’t say anything. That was a big surprise. He needed the progressive vote, and so ran as a cloaked timber lobby guy.

Voting for or against him had no impact on the matter. There are other cooler heads in the senate who think mandated logging is bad public policy. Montana Democrats and Republicans disagree.

namelessrange
Guest
namelessrange

Mark. He didn’t “put up” 5 million acres for development. Per the farm bill, he “recommended” 5 million acres for beetle kill cleanup/mitigation/prevention. Most of which hopefully will probably never be logged. You overgeneralize with hyperbole. But yes , I have been vocal on the Internet,in public, and in letters to my representatives regarding the use of The new categorical exclusion in areas that certainly don’t need it. Especially doing this mitigation and inventoried roadless areas And areas near the proposed NREPA electric peak and haystack wilderness areas Will I vote him out of the office? If a pragmatic other… Read more »

Turner
Guest
Turner

I’m angry that the Dems have so readily accepted all of TransCanada’s talking points.  I’m also angry with the AFL/CIO (who are evidently in bed with TransCanada) for bullying the party into accepting these talking points. Don, you’re minimizing the negative impact of Keystone XL. It is, as the VP, says “a big fucking deal.” Global warming is the most serious issue facing us.  No other issue approaches it in importance.  To support, or even go along with, Keystone XL is to commit a crime against humanity.  I don’t know if I’m going to vote this time.  I can’t vote for Daines and Zinke.  But… Read more »

MarkTokarski
Guest
MarkTokarski

You’re just a bit evasive here, as what he did is not what you say, but rather something much worse: he bypassed any public input and move 5 million acres onto the assembly line. Because he’s a Democrat you’re minimizing, making excuses for him. If he were a Republican doing the same thing, you might be incensed. THIS is the problem, the way you cover for these people. I do hope you’re right that these areas will never be logged, but then, he did open that door, right? .Would you vote him out of office? No. That’s all you said.… Read more »

MarkTokarski
Guest
MarkTokarski

“although I will unenthusiastically vote for Lewis and Walsh because Zinke and Daines are reprobates.”
Need anymore be said? You are a fear-based voter, and you are the problem. You allow Democrats to get away with anything because Republicans are “reprobates.”
Good lord this is insane!

Pete Talbot
Guest

MarkTokarski You are partially correct, Mark.  Some of my voting is fear based.  I fear that Republicans will roll back advances made for women, minorities, gays; I fear that creationism will be taught in schools (Daines); that social security will become privatized; that the minor reforms we’ve seen in health care will be repealed; etc., ad nauseam.  Do I get everything I want from the Democrats?  Hell no.  There may not be as big a difference in the parties as you’d like to see but there is a difference.  Let me know how your work is coming along on that… Read more »

MarkTokarski
Guest
MarkTokarski

Pete Talbot MarkTokarski The last serious threat to Social Security came form Bill Clinton, only thwarted by the Monica scandal. I fear Democrats more than Republicans in this matter, as your party members will not take note when the privatization effort is spearheaded by your own leaders.I suspect Obama is fostering privatization efforts now in secret, just as Clinton did. Advances were not made “FOR” women, minorities, gays, by BY them, and not by Democrats. That was movement politics, now dead, but which once forced both parties to roll over.  Your “minor reforms” in health care include enslaving us under the… Read more »

Pete Talbot
Guest

MarkTokarski Pete Talbot I’m really not sure why I’m getting sucked into this discussion, Mark.  I’ve read your comments many times over the years and they haven’t changed an iota, so I doubt what I write will have any sway with you. I take offense, though, at the, “You are passive, cowering in fear … ” comment.  I should probably spend less time posting comments and more time as an activist but I obviously am more committed than you.  You just seem to whine a lot.  I work hard to get the most progressive candidates elected in primary and general elections,… Read more »

MatthewDownhour
Guest
MatthewDownhour

MarkTokarski Pete Talbot You keep bringing up that Lewinsky-SS-Clinton thing.  I mean, it’s always been one of the twelve or so things you think you know because you read it in a book that re-confirms your worldview, but it got me thinking – you’ve said that you believe (and it is a reasonable belief) that these sorts of ‘scandals’ occur all the time, but they only become actual public scandals when a politician gets out of line and needs to be neutralized. Now, privatizing social security is worth billions, if not trillions, of dollars to some very influential people – indeed,… Read more »

MarkTokarski
Guest
MarkTokarski

I continually hear from Johhny-one-note-all-Democrats-all-the-time people like you that I am repetitive. I don’t think that is true.on my blog, which you avoid, I write about a wide variety of issues (tomorrow, Gore Vidal) but when I come to the one-note Democrats-good-Republicans-bad blogs, you guys are always talking about the same thing. It ain’t me that repeats, it’s you, buddy. If you guys ever broadened your horizons a little, you’d be more interesting too. Yes, I get it that third party politics cannot succeed in an oligarchy where the financial hurdles make challenging either of the money parties impossible. In… Read more »

MarkTokarski
Guest
MarkTokarski

At last you ask a good question, show some genuine curiosity. First, the book reported a conference at Harvard in which the participants in charge of privatization admitted their roles. It was not meant for public consumption. It was a slip-up where inside baseball accidentally became public. Ergo, Robin Blackburn merely did what real journalists do, reporting back to us about what powerful people were doing. Many things were going on at that time, so SS privatization was shelved, as breaking up the Balkans and attacking Iraq appear to be the top ticket times at that time. In the end,… Read more »

MatthewDownhour
Guest
MatthewDownhour

MarkTokarski That just doesn’t  make sens – Clinton was getting us involved in the Balkans well before Lewinsky.  He moved in Kosovo faster than Bosnia, sure, but I fail to see how speeding up the action in Kosovo could be prioritized over social security privatization – I see where it appeals to both Democrats and Republicans in that it is just such a boon to the right people – a nearly three trillion dollar infusion into Wall Street, at a predictable (to those on the inside) date? And I don’t think it’s reasonable to conclude that only the extreme popularity… Read more »

MarkTokarski
Guest
MarkTokarski

I agree it is complicated, as there are factions. But you overlook the power of the brain trust around Clinton. They realized that they needed to build a coalition to save his presidency, and so scrapped privatization plans and made him the champion of the program, the origins of the “lock box” advertising ploy. It worked. It did not hurt that most people didn’t care about his private affairs. He overcame the attack. The “he” that moved in Kosovo was not Clinton, who resisted doing anything there and Iraq. The Kosovo aggression, when it finally played out, was done over… Read more »

MatthewDownhour
Guest
MatthewDownhour

MarkTokarski You’re stepping back from your original claim, Mark.  It’s one thing to say its complicated and that there are factions in the Democratic party that support privatizing social security – no doubt about that – and another to say that the two parties are equally hostile to the very concept.  There is no one in the Republican party comparable to the pro-Social Security parts of the Democratic party.  And as much as you hate that the ACA straps the middle class into private insurance plans, it also constitutes an enormous expansion of the Great Society for low income people… Read more »

Kevin D Curtis
Guest
Kevin D Curtis

I don’t get it……Prime Minister Harper of Canada has stated that the Canadian crude from the Keystone XL will be exported to Asia as crude and now Congress is working to end our US ban on exporting US crude and people want to export our natural gas……so, how does exporting all of north America’s RAW natural resources make us energy independent?  Exporting our raw natural resources will only raise our fuel prices and keep us forever dependent on OPEC. High fuel prices will cause higher manufacturing costs, higher heating bills, higher food costs, higher shipping costs, a higher cost of… Read more »

MarkTokarski
Guest
MarkTokarski

No, you are dissembling. Of course there are factions in the Democratic Party, and unfortunately your progressive wing is a small majority and has no power. The only thing that keeps SS alive is its third rail nature, that touching it awakens the sleeping giant. That’s why Clinton operated in secrecy, planning to shitcan it on his way out of office along with his pardons. That’s why it is a safe bet that Obama is doing as much, working for his true constituency, the financiers. Republicans attack in the open and weaken it, democrats use stealth. It is always so.… Read more »

RobKailey
Guest
RobKailey

MarkTokarski RobKailey Mark, I do believe you smart enough to see the points you are willfully avoiding. 1)  Deceiving the enviro-progressives may have worked to help him in 2006, but obviously had nothing to do with Tester’s reelection in 2012.  Ahh, but then he had the backing of his corporate masters.  Right? 2)  Since, by your own profession, Tester and the overwhelming majority of Senators only hold office at the will of the corporate Illuminati, it stands to reason that the FJRA didn’t even easily pass out of committee because it is problematic for the corporate control structures.  There are several… Read more »

MarkTokarski
Guest
MarkTokarski

RobKailey MarkTokarski For the record, Rob, I have never used the term “Illuminati” in my writings. That is a smear tactic, as I see it.  1) There is no need to ‘conspire’ when people think alike, as do most the activist factions within our oligarchy.0 2) Montana is a backward resource colony, so that its senators don’t always get what they want.  3) in the grand gray scheme of things, the battle over access to the commons is one of attrition on the part of environmentalists. Tester proved ineffective. Walsh or Daines will likely pick up the ball he dropped. Finally,… Read more »

namelessrange
Guest
namelessrange

MarkTokarski RobKailey  I don’t know Mark. Your definition of “wedge issue” seems terribly ex post facto. Anything discussed during a campaign can simply be dismissed as a wedge issue and is solely purposed as a dividing line to solidify bases? That may be true sometimes, but even so is a useless observation. If two individuals have opposing views on an issue, and they communicate those views, they have highlighted their differences. Would you rather they didn’t discuss anything? Perhaps you can distribute your list of “Things Mark Defines as Wedge Issues That Don’t Matter To Mark Despite The Fact That They… Read more »

RobKailey
Guest
RobKailey

MarkTokarski RobKailey Nameless Range says this much more eloquently than I do, but this should be obvious:  Everytime, Mark, someone applies the simple logic of cause-effect you dismiss it with the unfounded pejorative of “black/white” thinking, without ever establishing a more consistent reasoning than cause and effect.  You are simply hiding from the implications of your own mythology.  That’s ineffective, Mark, just as ineffective  as claiming you don’t hold to an established and willful cadre of controlling oligarchs just because you don’t use the perfectly appropriate term, Illuminati. We are in Tester’s 8th year of service in the Senate, and you… Read more »

MarkTokarski
Guest
MarkTokarski

I am clear on wedge politics. These are issues that are emotional and so draw voters out and split up natural allies. Importantly, however, the issues do not affect powerful people. Abortion is a perfect example, as that service is available to all with power and always will be. Gun control another, as the power of the state arsenal over the population is unimaginable. Gay marriage? Nobody hurt by it. Please. Immigration? Talk all you want, as nothing changes. Business wants cheap labor. Period. End of action, but the beginning of endless discussion. Maybe I should also add that these… Read more »

MatthewDownhour
Guest
MatthewDownhour

MarkTokarski …but the Democrats have a progressive faction, that protects not only the general outline of social security but also it’s specific  benefits.  Republicans?  No such thing.  And when Obama moved to alter just the way the benefits were calculated, he came under attack from Democratic wonks (certainly no ‘movement’, because CPI is far to complex for a movement to understand).  Your point about Social Security is moot.  And you brought up the ACA –  but now you’re stepping back, maybe because you’re realized how incredibly pompous it is to complain about sullying your middle class, iPad- tapping fingers with… Read more »

MarkTokarski
Guest
MarkTokarski

The progressive faction, the caucus, is small and impotent. Chained CPI was news, the base was agitated, he backed off. I’ll leave it to you to explain why the head of your party is attacking the program and you are defending your party for defending the program. You’re humor is subtle, your arguments layered and complex. ACA was written by AHIP, by a committee comprised of insurance executives headed by Liz Fowler. It was presented to Baucus as fait accompli. He was told to pass the damned thing. The bill they wrote is the bill that passed. Everything between introduction… Read more »

MarkTokarski
Guest
MarkTokarski

That’s fairly incoherent, hard to follow. It is a simple betrayal: Tester ran for office promising to protect roadless lands. He then attacked them when elected. He was cloaked. He used a few compromised former green groups for political cover. He tried his best, he failed. It was the Burns agenda, he picked up the Burns flag, he dropped it. You seem to take comfort in his failure and ignore his betrayal, and continue to support him. You do not hold him accountable. Since he lost his progressive support, and was losing to Rehberg in a referendum euphemistically called a… Read more »

David
Guest
David

The Libertarian Candidate must the only House candidate opposing the pipeline for protection of private property rights. Ryan Zinke supported HB 198 in the 2011 legislature that gave an out of country corporation the right to use condemnation on private property. We should end all subsidies to Energy companies including oil and coal.

Support Our Work!

Poll

What would be the most appropriate nickname for Matt Rosendale?

Follow Us on Twitter

Subscribe Via E-mail

0 /* ]]> */