Rick Perry is the Texas governor and former Democrat who has quickly become a frontrunner in the contest for the GOP presidential nomination. Perry officially announced his candidacy for President on Saturday, August 13. Perry may be the longest-serving governor in America, but his environmental record is troubling to both ends of the political spectrum.
According to the Energy Information Administration, Texas has consistently been the nation’s biggest emitter of C02. If Texas were a nation, it would be the world’s eighth-largest emitter of CO2.
In 2009, Greenopia.com ranked Perry as amongst the worst Governors in the US for environmental responsibility. According to the American State Litter Scorecard, Texas is rated as one of the worst states in America for public space cleanliness and related environmental conditions.
Perry is a proponent of offshore drilling and he opposed President Obama’s moratorium after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Perry has not changed his mind despite the fact that many fish in the Gulf of Mexico are sick. Perry also has close ties with many of the leaders of the old oil economy including environmental arch-villains, the Koch brothers.
Although Perry tries to take credit for job creation, many of the jobs he allegedly created pay low wages. Politicians can rarely take credit for economic cycles and Perry is no exception, he has merely benefited from high oil prices and two wars. Texas has more oil refineries than any other state and is home to the largest defense contractors in the nation. Texas also has some of the largest military facilities in U.S.
Perry built his reputation as a jobs creator by stealing jobs from states like Florida, the home of fellow Republican Governor Rick Scott.
Perry is trying to position himself to the right of the leading Republican presidential hopeful, Mitt Romney, who is considered to be a socialist by some conservatives. With the straw poll in Iowa showing that voters have moved to the Right, Perry may not be able to move far enough to satisfy the Tea Party. The Right has already criticized Perry for his immigration reform and Michelle Bachman’s success in Iowa pushes the bar even further to the right.
Support for heath care reform or environmental initiatives, are not helpful to those vying for the Republican presidential nomination. As reported in the The New York Times, Michelle Bachman criticized fellow presidential hopeful Tim Pawlenty for his support of CO2 limits. Pawlenty later withdrew his bid for President. The AP reported that Republicans criticized former Utah governor Jon Huntsman for “his support of cap and trade as a response to climate change.”
The fact that Perry has incentivized green energy initiatives does not conform to the anti-environment sensibilities of today’s Republican Party. Perry was governor for the introduction of the TERP program in Texas, which provides some incentives for individuals, businesses and local governments to reduce their carbon footprints. Perry has been a supporter of wind energy in Texas which now has more wind capacity than any other state in the U.S. Governor Perry was part of a $5,000 incentive for the purchase of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles in 2009 and he supported legislation to get television manufacturers to responsibly recycle their products.
Governor Perry continues to meet his state’s renewable energy standard, but he also supports initiatives with questionable environmental impacts like carbon capture and storage, bio-refineries and nuclear power.
The Right may have the hardest time digesting the fact that Perry is a former Democrat who led the 1988 presidential campaign of Al Gore, a man the Tea Party refers to as the “Global Fruitcake.” Perry has subsequently found religion and developed conveniently strong feelings against Gore’s scientific arguments for anthropogenic climate change.
Most Republicans feel compelled to publicly deride the science behind climate change because this is what their constituents want them to say. Perhaps most importantly, this is what the old energy economy needs them to say. As governor, Perry consistently resisted federal policies aimed at combating climate change. In 2010, Perry signed a pledge sponsored by right-wing groups to oppose any federal “climate tax” bills particularly those including cap-and-trade.
Perry claims he is a big believer in prayer, but he did more than just pray for a world without cap-and-trade. Perry has made sure that Texas is not part of the Western Climate Initiative which was championed by Republican presidential contender Jon Huntsman (R-Utah).
Perry is a clever politician who knows how to pander to voters, however in his present incarnation he cannot afford to be seen as a friend to the environment. Even his meager environmental efforts may prove too eco-friendly for far-right Republicans. Although Governor Perry has debuted well, his opportunism may yet catch up with him.
Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, eco-economics and enviro-politics. He is the owner of THE GREEN MARKET, a leading sustainable business blog and one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. Find The Green Market on Facebook and follow The Green Market’s twitter feed.
- Will Rick Perry’s Texas swagger help or hurt? (cbsnews.com)
- Rick Perry: A primer on the presidential candidate (csmonitor.com)
- Why some tea partyers are skeptical of Rick Perry (csmonitor.com)