Jonathan Chait

He's Been Living In His Upton World

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Fred Upton used to be considered a Republican moderate, and one of the few members of his party who accepted the scientific consensus on climate change. This made him highly suspicious to conservatives. So, in order to chair the House Energy and Commerce Committee, he had to make a few adjustments. Meet the new Fred Upton:

I had the great privilege of working for President Reagan, and his successful, free-market approach to energy offers important lessons for today's energy debate and its consequences for economic growth and job creation. Reagan inherited all the energy policy mistakes of the 1970s - a decade in which every energy challenge was met with ill-advised federal programs and mandates...

Unfortunately, Obama's State of the Union address offered more of the same: digs at oil producers as purveyors of "yesterday's energy" to be replaced by government-selected "clean energy breakthroughs." The President repeatedly mentioned "clean" but never said "affordable." In contrast, Reagan considered the latter at least as important as the former, because he understood that affordable, abundant, and reliable energy sources are essential to job creation and economic strength. ...

Ronald Reagan's free-market and limited-government approach to energy has a proven track record. On Reagan's centennial the current administration would be wise to follow his course. Two critical first steps would be to remove the obstacles to domestic oil production and put an end to EPA's global warming regulatory overreach.

The dogma here is so thick that any signs of actual thought are barely discernible. First, there's the assumption that "free market" energy policies entail putting zero price on the externality cost of dumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, a notion even Hayek disagreed with. Next there's the idea that everything Reagan did was correct, never mind the fact that scientists' understanding of climate change was embryonic at the time. The Gipper didn't know from climate science, and neither should we!

Whether or not Upton actually believes this tripe, I couldn't say. What matters is that this is the level of thought he needs to display in order to carry his party's banner on energy issues.

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