Jeb Bush Energy Plan Gets Personal

Contrast with Clinton plan stresses benefits of ‘energy revolution’ for individuals, businesses

Jeb Bush
Jeb Bush / AP

A week after Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton proposed policies to scale back U.S. oil production, Republican hopeful Jeb Bush is emphasizing the economic benefits of continuing to expand it.

Bush is releasing an energy policy plan on Tuesday that proposes policies to expand U.S. oil and gas production as a step towards the 4 percent economic growth that his campaign has put forward as an economic policy benchmark.

"Energy is not just a sector of our economy. It’s also an input into every other economic sector," Bush writes in an outline of his plan shared with the Washington Free Beacon.

"More domestic energy leads to more jobs, higher wages, lower gas prices, and smaller electricity bills," Bush writes. "In short, it means more money in people’s pockets, allowing them more freedom to make more choices for themselves and their children."

Bush’s plan would roll back recent federal environmental regulations, lift the ban on oil and natural gas exports, approve the Keystone XL pipeline, and delegate more energy policy authority to states and Native American tribes.

It focuses primarily on oil and gas production but also calls for "a level playing field for all energy sources including, but not limited to, nuclear, renewables, coal, natural gas, oil and alternative fuels."

The former Florida governor will unveil his plan at the Pennsylvania offices of Rice Energy, an independent oil and natural gas producer that operates in the Marcellus and Utica shale formations.

William Yeatman, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute specializing in energy policy, praised Bush’s proposal.

"In particular, I’m impressed with his goal to lift the regulatory burden, which is itself a tremendous challenge in light of what the current administration is trying to do in its second term, during which it faces no electoral accountability and, as such, is trying to cram through a tremendously onerous regulatory agenda in an effort to cement a green legacy," Yeatman wrote in an email.

The plan emphasizes traditional Republican energy policy themes, saying the right policies "can finally achieve energy security for this nation." But it also stresses the personal financial benefits of what Bush calls the ongoing "energy revolution," a massive increase in oil and gas production driven by innovations in extraction technology.

"Researchers at Dartmouth University found that every $1 million of oil and gas extracted from an oil or gas well generates, within 100 miles of that well, an additional $263,000 in wages and 2.8 new jobs," Bush writes.

Federal government data appears to support Bush’s position. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the oil and gas industry was a rare bright spot in the U.S. economy from 2007 to 2012. Even as the U.S. economy shed more than 3.6 million jobs in that time, the oil and natural gas industry added more than 130,000 jobs.

Those jobs paid well, BLS found. "Average annual pay grew by a larger amount in the oil and natural gas industry than it did in the national economy" during that time, according to its report.

Those employment benefits have slowed as oil prices have declined. While industry critics say that undercuts its arguments for economic benefits, it also appears to support Bush’s contention that increased oil and gas production can be a significant microeconomic stimulant.

Bush’s plan is a stark contrast to Clinton’s, which pledges to "reduce the amount of oil consumed in the United States and around the world."

Yeatman pointed to Bush’s references to "a level playing field" as a particularly welcome proposal. "All too often, politicians from both parties stress the insipid ‘all of the above’ strategy, which seems to be an open endorsement of preferential treatment," he wrote.

"If [Bush] truly cares about these principles, he’d fill out key roles at EPA, Interior, [the White House Council on Environmental Quality], and other agencies with administrators and political appointees committed to these ideas, instead of special interests who helped him get elected."