The Fuse

Energy Policy 2016: Spotlight on Ben Carson

by R. Kress | September 28, 2015

Status: Declared candidacy on May 4, 2015

Party: Republican

Career Overview: Ben Carson is a retired neurosurgeon. He first appeared in the national spotlight in 2008 when President George W. Bush awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom for becoming the first surgeon to perform a successful separation of conjoined twins linked at the head. Carson went on to enter the political limelight after delivering a conservative-leaning speech as keynote speaker for the 2013 National Prayer Breakfast. Republican pundits hailed Carson’s willingness to confront controversial political issues and disagree with the current administration’s policies while standing just a few feet away from the president. Since then, he’s been a regular contributor to Fox News.

2016 Energy Policy: Carson is a major proponent of energy independence as a means to achieve national security. In his 2012 book America the Beautiful he described what he believed should have been done in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, writing, “If the president had seized the moment and declared that we would become petroleum independent within the next ten years as part of our effort to strip terrorism of its resources… we would have been much further ahead in the fight against terrorism than we are today.” He arrives at this conclusion by asserting that the Arab states would have turned their backs on Osama bin Laden and other militant threats to the U.S., for fear of losing their oil-reliant economic base. He also asserts that an investment at that time in new energy technologies would have bolstered Wall Street and sent our economy into a boom time.

Domestic Oil Extraction: Regarding reliance on foreign oil, Carson also writes in America the Beautiful of a need to “intelligently tap our own resources.” To that end, he sees the extraction of oil in North and South Dakota, Montana, Alaska and in offshore drill sites as essential to quenching our national appetite for oil while being a part of the fight against a “terrorist network [that] derives most of its money through oil revenues.” He also alludes to incentivizing the creation of clean energy technologies so that our overall reliance on oil can be ended.

Oil Subsidies: In May 2015, Carson alluded to ending extraction subsidies for the oil and gas industry—an issue position more frequently supported by the left. In response to a question about the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) he said that he would be in favor of taking “that $4 billion a year we spend on oil subsidies and using that in new fueling stations.” He added that those stations should be 30-percent ethanol blends, a nod to voters in the swing state of Iowa, where ethanol blends uphold an economy reliant on corn farming.

Keystone XL Pipeline: Carson has said that he’s in favor of the Keystone pipeline: “It’s perfectly safe so I can’t really see a good reason not to do it.”

Climate change: Carson has raised some eyebrows and courted criticism for his statements on climate change and global warming. Overall, he has downplayed the issue but still maintained that it’s vital for people to protect the environment: “I’ll tell you what I think about climate change. The temperature’s either going up or down at any point in time so it really is not a big deal…What is a big deal is that the environment is under our control. We do have a responsibility to pass it on to those behind us in at least as good a condition as we found it, hopefully an improved condition.” Instead, Carson noted that the debate over climate change is “irrelevant” to another issue: The role of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Taking on the EPA: In the same interview in which Carson’s views on climate change arose, he said that “our Environmental Protection Agency should be told to work in conjunction with business, industry and universities to find the most eco-friendly ways of developing our energy resources.”

Several months after making these comments, in August, Carson took on the EPA after a team of its contractors accidentally spilled three million gallons of toxic waste from an abandoned gold mine into Colorado’s Animas River. He urged the EPA to pay for the spill’s clean up and fine itself the way it would any business in the private sector: “I suggest that these reparations be paid from fines collected by EPA and not by additional tax dollars from the general fund…The EPA must face the same consequences and same accountability as they require from each of us.”

He went on to accuse the agency of hypocrisy and then called for the EPA to focus on not harming the environment: “One wonders if this accident had occurred at the hands of a private business or even an individual property owner, would the EPA be as forgiving as they have been of themselves? I think not…We all want a better environment…We all want more common sense in the administration of our environmental laws and policies.”