Ryan Zinke
Montana Politics Ryan Zinke

Zinke Releases Energy Plan Not Even He Agrees With

Just a mere six and a half weeks after John Lewis released his energy plan, Ryan Zinke

Ryan Zinke
Ryan Zinke’s energy plan is about as authentic as this cowboy hat.

held a press conference to announce his proposal, something that could neither be called energy nor a plan. Instead, it’s nothing more than tired Republican talking points about “taking back the EPA” and ending the “war on coal,” interspersed with the kind of grammatical errors a serious candidate for Congress might think about proofreading before sending out to the public.

Zinke’s proposal doesn’t offer anything substantive in the “plan,” which suggests that we should develop power plants, frack everywhere possible because God gave us tracking (really), and mine without any oversight from the EPA or the hassle of Environmental Impact statements. It’s less a plan for energy independence than it is a plan for an environmental holocaust. 

In addition to its partisan posturing, Zinke’s plan once again contradicts positions he’s taken in the past. For instance, Zinke’s plan seems to suggest the federal government should invest in renewables. It says:

I believe in an all-of-the-above energy strategy, and that includes all methods of renewable energy generation. I support investing in the research and development of new renewable sources and ways to make those sources more sustainable and affordable. 

But at his press conference today in Billings, he told the press that he doesn’t support promoting renewables, saying:

But, he does not support tax incentives for companies that develop renewable technologies, saying the technologies must compete in the marketplace with other energy sources.“Government shouldn’t be picking winners and losers in the energy industry,” he said.

That contradiction is noteworthy, but it’s especially problematic for Zinke, who, back in 2009, called for government support of the renewable industry.

If we take Zinke at his latest word, that the government should not subsidize alternative energy sources, he might as well admit that he has no interest in their development. Zinke has to either be an idiot or willfully ignorant to think that the government hasn’t been picking winners (fossil fuels) and losers (renewables) for decades—and to argue that alternative energy should be able to compete on the market with new technology ignores the massive subsidies given to oil and gas companies, the experience of states and nations that have developed renewable energy, and Zinke’s own position.

Wind offers an instructive example. Now, Senator Zinke may not know this, being from Santa Barbara, where millionaires block wind development because it will hurt the view from their mansions, but Montana has abundant wind energy, which flourished with sensible tax policy that encouraged its development. But Republicans in Congress, always eager to burn more coal and cash more checks from Big Oil, hamper wind development by not giving it the consistent tax breaks they are so happy to hand out to the oil industry. Tina Casey explains:

It’s déjà vu all over again for wind energy jobs, as once again the US wind industry is entering its periodic ritual of renewal for a key federal tax credit. The last time Congress dithered over the renewal, the US wind industry almost ground to a halt. This time even more is at stake. The industry has recovered  since that downturn, and its growing domestic supply chain means that wind energy jobs are popping up even in states that aren’t particularly friendly to renewable energy.

So, if Senator Zinke was serious about promoting “all of the above” energy, he’d be calling on the Republicans in the House to extend the same certainty to wind they give to oil. But that might be too much to ask from someone who’s literally in the back pocket of the oil industry.

In a final note, Zinke also managed to contradict an earlier position on nuclear energy. His plan calls for speeding up the process of approving nuclear power plants, a sensible post-Fukushima policy. Back in 2009, though, he said “Already expensive, any future expansion of nuclear power is unviable unless a suitable storage solution is instituted.”  The gaping hole in Zinke’s credibility from all of these changes in his position might store some of nuclear power’s waste, but certainly not all of it.

Some poorly-written pages, laden with red meat for the conservatives, even with footnotes, does not an energy plan make. It does however, do a bit more to demonstrate just how much hot air the state senator formerly from Whitefish can generate.

In contrast, if you’d like to see how an adult interested in solutions addresses renewable energy, I suggest you take a look at Senator Tester’s energy bill.

If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.

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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.

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