The Fuse

Energy Policy 2016: Spotlight on Florida Senator Marco Rubio

by R. Kress | August 18, 2015

Status: Declared candidacy on April 13, 2015.

Party: Republican

Career overview: At 44 years old, Rubio is the youngest presidential candidate so far to declare his candidacy for 2016. The U.S. Senator from Florida is now running against his longtime friend and mentor Jeb Bush. In 2010, Rubio asked Bush for permission to run for Senate—refusing to challenge him for the same job if Bush had been interested in the same position. But when it comes to 2016, the two could openly become rivals, dividing Republicans in the Sunshine State.

Senate Voting Record: When examining Rubio’s Senate voting record on energy issues, it must be noted that he has fewer data points to take into account than any other current senator: He has missed more Senate votes than anyone else and has an 8.3 percent rate of absenteeism according to Vocativ and GovTrack.

  • YES: Keystone Pipeline XL approval. Also was the co-sponsor of a bill to override President Obama’s veto of the project. (01/15)
  • NO: Promote renewables and energy conservation while eliminating unnecessary tax subsidies (03/12)
  • NO: New offshore drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, immediate construction on Keystone XL pipeline (03/12)
  • NO: Tax incentives for clean energy (05/14)
  • YES: Cut the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Energy and the Department of the Interior to oversee regulations on natural resources, clean energy growth and health safeguards (03/13)
  • YES: Prevent Congress from creating taxes or fees on carbon emissions (03/13)

Energy industry: In 2013, Rubio delivered the GOP’s rebuttal to the State of the Union address. In his speech, he took the Obama administration’s clean energy agenda to task: “One of the best ways to encourage growth is through our energy industry. Of course solar and wind energy should be a part of our energy portfolio. But God also blessed America with abundant coal, oil and natural gas. Instead of wasting more taxpayer money on so-called ‘clean energy’ companies like Solyndra, let’s open up more federal lands for safe and responsible exploration. And let’s reform our energy regulations so that they’re reasonable and based on common sense. If we can grow our energy industry, it will make us energy independent, it will create middle class jobs and it will help bring manufacturing back from places like China.”

Fracking: During his 2010 Senate run, Rubio elaborated on his support for domestic energy solutions, including oil and gas exploration in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and drilling on federally-owned lands with oil shale. “As senator, I will stand for policies that make us more energy efficient, less reliant on foreign sources of oil, create jobs and ease the burden on family budgets.” Later, he tried to make good on that promise by co-sponsoring the Federal Land Freedom Act that would allow state control of energy resources that are found on federal lands. The foundation behind the legislation argues that “States have an interest in both boosting their economies by tapping into the energy resources available to them and protecting the environment. More importantly, they are best suited to fulfill these two goals, not the federal government.”

Keystone XL Pipeline: While Rubio is a major supporter for the Keystone XL Pipeline, he took some criticism this January for missing the Senate vote on the issue. At the time, he was on the road, fundraising for his eventual Presidential bid. The bill ultimately was not decided by a single vote, passing the Republican-controlled Senate with some ease—and later vetoed by President Obama. Rubio then co-sponsored a piece of legislation that would override President Obama’s veto power on the matter. The Senate effort to override the veto failed.

Hybrid Vehicles and Solar for Florida: In 2006, Rubio released 100 Innovative Ideas for Florida’s Future, a book in which he outlined a bold plan for the future. At the time, he was the Florida House Speaker but was considering a U.S. Senate bid. As he prepared to step out onto the national stage, he included in the book several progressive energy policies. Among them: Tax incentives for residents and businesses using energy-efficient appliances and loans to public institutions to help them go green. He also proposed incentives and rewards programs for hybrid car drivers including use of HOV lanes and cheaper parking. He even discussed converting all state government vehicles into a fully fuel-efficient fleet. In 100 Innovative Ideas, Rubio also talks about energy alternatives including Florida’s naturally abundant solar resources as the Sunshine State and writes that “clean, safe nuclear energy is another promising option to diversity Florida’s energy portfolio. Other promising areas include waste-to-energy conversion and wind and water power.”