Republicans, regroup: embrace energy reform now

By Michele Combs, Juan C. Lopez-Campillo, and Brian Smith

There’s plenty of post-election soul-searching going on in Republican circles. How do we reach out to groups whose votes we lost this time around? How can we update our message to adjust to changing demographic realities? And what can we do right starting now to make future wins more likely?

At Young Conservatives for Energy Reform (YCER), we believe energy reform is a winning issue for growing the Republican Party. In fact, it’s something of a no-brainer. Energy reform enjoys broad bipartisan support, especially among young people, whom Republicans need to do a better job reaching. And because energy policy speaks to core conservative issues -- including strengthening the economy, boosting national defense, and leaving our children with a better world -- it is an issue Republicans should own.

And unless we do, we risk losing critical constituencies across the country.  Poll after poll has shown that Americans of all political persuasions are interested in weaning our nation from foreign oil, embracing efficiency, and developing renewable energy sources all across the country.

At YCER, we believe this kind of “all of the above,” made-in-America energy strategy should be a national priority. Our over-dependence on oil makes our nation weaker and supports countries that don’t always share our values. We send about a billion dollars a day overseas to pay for oil. That’s money that could be better spent at home.

But even at home, we have to look beyond traditional energy sources. What President George W. Bush called our "addiction to oil", puts us at the mercy of a worldwide oil market whose prices we cannot control. By diversifying our energy portfolio to include efficiency and homegrown energy sources such as natural gas, solar, wind, and biofuels, we can move toward true energy independence.

Energy innovation represents a tremendous economic opportunity, as well. Last year alone, investment in renewable energy reached a record $260 billion worldwide. The United States must act to secure a leading role in this fast-growing market. We must develop and own the energy technologies of the future -- we don’t want to end up buying them from some other nation. And embracing new energy sources will trigger innovation, attract investment, and create American jobs.

Those of us involved in Young Conservatives for Energy Reform come at this issue from a wide variety of perspectives. We reflect the broad swath of America interested in energy reform. One of us is a veteran of the war in Iraq with a background in venture capital, living in the Midwest. One is a Southern mother long involved in conservative politics. One is a bilingual lawyer from Florida.

We are worried about a serious and growing disconnect between the way energy is discussed in our parts of America, and the way politicians talk about it inside the Beltway.  Our leaders should not reduce energy policy to dueling sets of talking points. It’s too important for that.

Across the nation, young conservatives are seeing their priorities -- including belief in a strong economy and a strong national defense, and a desire to do right by our families and generations to come -- coalesce around the need for energy reform. YCER will continue to press for real energy reform --  for the sake of a stronger, healthier, more prosperous nation. It’s good for America -- and it’s good politics, too.

Michele Combs is the President of Young Conservatives for Energy Reform (YCER) and former national Young Republican of the Year.  Juan C. Lopez-Campillo, an attorney with Jackson Lewis, LLP, is YCER’s Florida State Chair.  Brian Smith, an Air Force veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, is YCER’s Midwest Chair, and a graduate student at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

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