[Updated June 6] Where are the environmental Republicans?

It is extremely disturbing and frustrating to see the images coming back from the Gulf Coast of oiled animals and damaged wetlands and beaches.

And it is equally a tragedy that 11 people lost their lives April 20 as a result of the accident that befell the Deepwater Horizon Oil Rig.

But, politically, what’s perhaps the most disturbing issue is the lack of comment from Republican leaders. Whether it be John Boehner, Eric Cantor or Bob McDonnell, the lack of seizing initiative on this issue from conservatives has been appalling.

Certainly now is not the time to be talking about drilling off the coast of Virginia – although the president is wrong to ditch the plan altogether. However, now is a great time to be talking about tax breaks and incentives for alternative energy production.

Whether it be biofuels, solar, wave energy, wind power, nuclear, or other – why has no Republican seized the opportunity to talk about the “all of the above” solution? Why have they not spoken about how dreadful this spill is and how it is yet another example, in a long string of examples, of how oil is a commodity that we eventually have to wean ourselves off of? Why have they not promoted and presented alternatives?

The only person who I have heard even remotely address this issue is 2nd Congressional District GOP Candidate Jessica Sandlin.

“With the algae biofuel research being conducted at ODU, and the Virginia Offshore Wind coalition, our district could be on the map in the international conversation around renewable energy. Our future is bright in this area, and we already have coalitions like the Hampton Roads Technology Council in place to move this forward. It’s very exciting to consider the possibilities,” she said

Sandlin is spot on. But why has Rigell said nothing? What about the other GOP candidates?

Quite frankly, the oil industry concerns me with their safety record. While oil disasters are few, when they happen, they are catastrophes (Santa Barbara, Prince William Sound, Gulf of Mexico) – that alone should give us pause as to whether or not we should tap this resource. If every 30 years or so we potentially ruin an ecosystem, maybe we ought to rethink the viability of this production method.

But, politically, leaders need to know when to re-evaluate. I hope Republicans are remaining low-key about this spill because they are doing just that – re-evaluating. A mere two years ago, “Drill, baby, drill” was the mantra that seemed to bringing resurgence to the GOP – but sometimes, when reality strikes, you gotta know when to just let go.

If Republicans were smart, they would realize that at that time, “Drill, baby, drill” was just a frustrated public wondering why we were fighting in far-off lands over an energy commodity, and that the public was seeking viable energy alternatives – including drilling in the United States – merely to bring down the cost of gas.

The reality is that Americans want energy solutions. They want energy to be affordable. But they don’t want to destroy our way of life in the process.

Republicans need to come out strong for their vision of energy alternatives, just like Jessica Sandlin has.

Today, Bearing Drift readers and contributors helped clean up the Chesapeake Bay (pictured). There are conservatives who are environmentally conscious and thoughtful about the future of our planet. Those conservatives will not allow our leaders to abdicate their responsibility in telling us their plans for how to meet our energy needs and preserve the precious balance of life.

Republicans who solely relied on “drilling” as their energy solution are soon to be exposed as frauds. And, those Republicans who truly have been leaders in promoting the comprehensive energy solution must very publicly make their policies known – including supporting an all-out effort to contain this spill and clean it up using any means available.

The environment matters – especially to conservatives. It’s time to act like it.

* Update *

Tucker Martin, the governor’s spokesman, dropped me an email this morning stating all the things Gov. McDonnell has done to advocate an “all of the above” energy solution.

Jim, kind of surprised by the comments you made, or more accurately didn’t make, about the governor in your latest post. You’ve been following him a long time, so certainly you know his energy play is the “all of the above” approach you say you want to see, and he talks about using every resource available. You talk about why Republicans don’t promote tax incentives for green energy and don’t mention his Green Jobs tax credit that we got passed this year and was a major plank of his economic development agenda? You don’t note his plan to conserve 400,000 acres, and his support for offshore wind. The quote you have from the 2nd District candidate is EXACTLY the kind of comment the governor makes in every speech he gives about energy. Long and short, all of the things you say Republican’s aren’t doing, the governor is doing. Anyway, here are some links, but a little surprised you didn’t mention the governor’s work given how closely you follow him.

Chesapeake Bay: http://www.governor.virginia.gov/News/viewRelease.cfm?id=194

Chesapeake Bay: http://www.governor.virginia.gov/News/viewRelease.cfm?id=167

Scenic rivers and land conversation: http://www.governor.virginia.gov/News/viewRelease.cfm?id=142

Land conservation: http://www.governor.virginia.gov/News/viewRelease.cfm?id=141

Earth Week events: http://www.governor.virginia.gov/News/viewRelease.cfm?id=131

Official bill signing of Governor’s green energy agenda at ODU: http://www.governor.virginia.gov/News/viewRelease.cfm?id=105

Conserve 400,000 acres: http://www2.timesdispatch.com/rtd/news/state_regional/state_regional_govtpolitics/article/MCDO23_20090422-223254/263080/

From that article: “Philosophically, conservation is a conservative value,” the former attorney general said.

You write: Whether it be biofuels, solar, wave energy, wind power, nuclear, or other – why has no Republican seized the opportunity to talk about the “all of the above” solution?

Well here is the text from the governor’s energy plan rollout, right at the start of the campaign at ODU in April 2009.

Bob McDonnell’s plan for “More energy, More Jobs” takes an “all of the above” approach to solving our energy crisis. His administration will continue to support the traditional sources of energy that provide thousands of jobs to Virginians and help keep our electricity costs fairly low. He will also expand investments in renewable energy sources and incentivize green job creation so that the future of Virginia remains bright.


And, regarding the cancellation of Lease Sale 220 by the President…

“I am a strong proponent of a comprehensive energy policy for Virginia and America. We should greatly increase our domestic production and utilization of all energy sources. That includes offshore and onshore wind, coal, solar, nuclear, biofuels, waste to energy, natural gas and, with the appropriate improvements in the industry incorporated moving forward, offshore oil and gas”


The governor has been talking about it for a long time, but during this crisis, this is what is being reported….

From the Washington Post

McDonnell (R), who has made offshore drilling one of his administration’s top priorities, has continued to support drilling even after the deadly April 20 explosion in the Gulf of Mexico that created the worst oil spill in U.S. history.

On Thursday, McDonnell said he understood, but disagreed, with Obama’s decision to cancel plans for proposed lease sales off the Virginia coast.

“I do not believe outright cancellation was the only alternative,” he said. “It is my hope that the president’s action does not signal the end of offshore energy exploration and production off Virginia in the years ahead.”

From the Daily Press

Canceling the Virginia lease sale upends Gov. Bob McDonnell’s effort to make Virginia the first Atlantic coast state to permit offshore drilling. McDonnell, who could not be reached for comment, issued a statement Thursday reaffirming his support of drilling provided it doesn’t harm the environment.

“I do not believe outright cancellation was the only alternative given the fact that this sale was not due to occur until two years from now, and actual drilling would likely take place years after that,” the statement says.

McDonnell suggested the decision whether or not to drill should be made following the completion of a two-year environmental impact study. The Interior Department’s offshore regulatory arm, Minerals Management Service, began the study prior to the oil spill. Interior spokeswomen did not return phone calls to determine if the study is ongoing.

Appearing Thursday on a Richmond radio show, McDonnell suggested he may pursue a deal to open the coast to gas exploration only. “It’s possible to have a lease sale solely for natural gas,” he said. “And that may be a compromise going forward until all the details are sorted out down there.”


Speaking on WTOP’s Ask the Governor program Tuesday, McDonnell said the spill is a setback, but he isn’t stopping his push for offshore drilling.

“We didn’t give up when we had the Challenger disaster in the space program or when we had nuclear meltdowns on Three Mile Island. We did what Americans always do in making progress – we found solutions and moved forward. But this is probably going to slow us down. We have a two-year environmental impact statement anyway that’s going on with the federal government and during that time, I think we’ll find a lot of answers,” McDonnell said.

McDonnell said he doesn’t think BP and the federal government had a good Plan B or C for containing or cleaning the spill.

While I appreciate Martin’s sentiment, and agree the governor has done some very good things regarding a comprehensive energy solution, in the last week or so he has been seen as a very public advocate to continue the push for offshore drilling in Virginia. Right now, Virginia needs the governor to be public on the “rest of the above” approach, and working behind the scenes to see the viability of offshore energy production as the study moves forward.

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