Young Conservatives Vote Yes for Energy Reform

Conservatives from many sides of the country are uniting behind energy reform.

The reasons may vary, but the end result is that policy is going to be affected by a change in those supporting new ways of thinking about this large, complex, old problem.

In the United States, energy is the heart of a multi-billion dollar industry that has become as essential to our way of life. Until very recently, energy was simply the fuel in our cars or the light we turned on. We paid the bill and that was the end of it. Today, many of us are taking charge of some aspect of our energy use, from how we use it, to rooftop solar, to choosing appliances that are more efficient. We turn our thermostats up or down, and consider energy savings technologies that do the most energy intensive work when the rates are lowest.

On a global level, energy procurement has had a dramatic effect on national security. Consumers and taxpayers are increasingly reluctant to purchase oil from countries that do not share our interests. The military has become deeply concerned, putting resources into ensuring that home bases can be independent of the national grid for days or weeks. For the military, the cost of providing energy for forward bases is counted in the lives of American servicemen: every drop of fuel must be transported in vulnerable vehicles, and every battery must be carried on the backs of soldiers.

Finally, energy is not cost neutral. Energy has waste in the form of heat, carbon and other gases, and particulates such as soot and smog. The costs of dealing with the external impacts of energy production has fallen heavily on taxpayers through the costs of removing the externalities and paying for negative health outcomes such as asthma. Those living near facilities that are high emitters bear the brunt of poor air quality, although they may use a fraction of the energy or none of the products produced. These issues have made energy policy something on which more and more people want a voice. Among them is YC4ER, Young Conservatives for Energy Reform.

Young Conservatives for Energy Reform

Michele Combs, Founder and Chairman YC4ER
Michele Combs, Founder and Chairman, said, “We work from the grass roots because we know energy is high on their [young conservatives] list, and it is going to have impact on Senate races.”

In August of 2016, YC4ER held a national conference in Washington DC, in conjunction with the Christian Coalition. Ms. Combs said that this year’s conference was a huge success, bringing back people from the previous year and many more. “We’re constantly promoting and educating.” she added. Her comments were supported by Ash Mason, Chairman of the Christian Coalition of Florida. “You can’t imagine how successful and important this summit is for conservatives. This could become a platform for Republicans. It’s the first step in a long conversation. Summits like this show we have things we can agree on.”

A USA, Rock the Vote poll found that an overwhelming 80% (favor) vs 10% (don’t favor), of millennials surveyed say the United States should transition to mostly clean or renewable energy by 2030, an ambitious goal that would surely require the leadership of the president. By more than 2–1, they say the government should invest more heavily in buses and rail.

Tyler Duvelius, the Christian Coalition’s state director in Ohio, added, “This [energy reform] has been an issue that has motivated me for quite some time. It doesn’t get enough attention. I’m able to be out there and really give a voice to my concerns.”

He went on to add that bipartisan politics takes the theatrics out of the conversation. As a Christian Coalition member, he doesn’t endorse any candidate, but wants to hold politicians accountable for their actions. He believes that the coalition’s massive grass roots organization — including visiting churches struggling with utility bills — shows that conservatives can keep pressure on politicians, while giving energy reform a human face.

Tyler Duvelius, Christian Coalition, Ohio
Mr. Duvelius added, “There’s big money on both sides, so this will be won on a grass roots level. It’s an honor to be able to lead, but real change takes hard work. This isn’t something we can do overnight. No sixty second commercial will do this. We’re just bringing people into this one person at a time. Ask any of my colleagues, our hard work is paying off. We’re seeing a lot more conversation around energy reform.”

Mr. Mason continued the conversation saying, “We are a grass roots group that has stood for the family for over 25 years. But the message has been wrong. There’s no reason to make legislators say how they feel about climate change or green energy when 80% of us want to keep US borders safe and provide choice.” He sees financial benefits in renewable energy, adding that Florida could be the ‘Silicon Valley of Solar.’ Although China is the largest manufacture of solar, states like North Carolina are making big strides in solar manufacturing. He thinks that America can — and should — be leading. “There are solar panels and boards, geothermal heat and so much that go into wind turbines. It’s growing by leaps and bounds over the last 10 years.”

Ash Mason, Christian Coalition, Florida
One of Mr. Mason’s issues is local regulations. For example, states such as Florida, North Carolina and Oklahoma don’t allow the sale of energy from home renewables to a 3rd party. He believes that anyone who wants to become grid independent should not have to pay utility costs for transmission they aren’t using.

He added that net metering — a billing mechanism that credits solar energy system owners for the electricity they add to the grid. — still has problem for utilities. “So there’s a range of financial and environmental benefits. That’s how we present it to Congress. We want to promote freedoms and liberty. We understand the language of government: ten to fifteen calls from church leaders sway a legislator.”

YC4ER conducted a poll to assess attitudes of young conservatives. They found that while 50% considered jobs and the economy as the number one threat, only 7% thought energy a number one concern. The respondents picked the Democrats 6% over Republicans as able to act on climate change, but trusted Republicans 55% over Democrats to protect national security. This is particularly important in view of the information from the poll: the most important reason for Millennial conservatives to support energy reform is to reduce US dependence on imported oil from the Middle East.

YC4ER’s poll showed the following:

Security was a big pull for young conservatives. Climate change resonated less, but some were concerned about rising prices and competitiveness with China.

Surprisingly, there was a little difference between encouraging the private sector, tax credits and subsidies for R&D and out and out government support.

However, there was more support for safety laws that protect health, as opposed to the EPA placing carbon restrictions that might impact consumers.

The results of the poll showed an awareness that an energy policy is an important step, while many were less sure of what steps to take to address it.