The Perry jobs plan is primarily restricted to the energy sector. This is very good for states that have ample reserves (Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Oklahoma, New Mexico, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Kansas) but not so good for states that don’t have oil and gas production. Oil and gas are fixed in place. You can’t bring the oil to the workers; the workers will have to go to the jobs, in some cases far from their communities of origin. In that sense, energy jobs are different from, say, steel mill jobs. Texans will recognize some familiar themes in Perry’s energy proposals. One is legal system reform. Perry would establish special courts to rule on oil and gas disputes, the idea being to allow judges with special expertise to resolve cases. This has a significant potential for mischief, though, since energy law is very well settled in energy-producing states, and special courts could throw it into uncertainty. Furthermore, these courts would not have trial by jury. This is an odd position for a conservative who doesn’t like unelected federal judges who answer to no one. The odds are very good that these “expert” judges would tend to side with oil companies against landowners and the public. Another familiar theme in Perry’s plan is his antipathy for the Environmental Protection Agency, which he has feuded with in court during his governorship. One of Perry’s main points in describing the success of the Texas economy is that the state should have light regulation of business. Well, you know, and I know, what that means. It means that the industry will be allowed to do whatever it wants, above the surface of the land or below it, as it has historically been allowed to do in Texas. In short, Perry’s plan, while it holds a promise of creating more jobs, does not seek to strike a balance between the interests of the public and the interests of industry. For example, will hydraulic fracturing be allowed in developed residential areas? I would feel a little better about Perry’s “plan” if it offered even a little bit of protection for the public. * * * * added 10/15 This is not a comprehensive jobs plan. It is a hastily thrown-together energy plan. It rehashes old issues, such as drilling in the Artic National Wildlife Refuge and on western lands, and calls for allowing states to take over much of EPA’s regulatory authority. You know what that will mean in Texas: free rein for polluters. State legislatures are no match for the power of special interests. The combination of Congress and the executive branch can mount real resistance to the industry. The diversity of interest groups on the national level (as Madison wrote in The Federalist No. 10) ensures more scrutiny than can ever occur at the state level. This is not a viable long-term plan to put America back to work, but it does have the virtue of being a plan, which is something Perry hasn’t had until now. Which raises another question about the Perry campaign: Why not? There are certain things you do when you run for president. One of them is come up with a plan to deal with the major issues. Not only was Perry late in doing so; he did so only after saying several times that he wouldn’t give specifics (though he did so in the end). Clearly, Perry’s strategic team does not intend to run the kind of race that most presidential candidates do. What the plan doesn’t do is talk about downsides. Perry says that the U.S. is the Saudi Arabia of coal, but he doesn’t address the health costs of coal, compared to (relatively) clean-burning natural gas. He doesn’t believe in global warming, so he doesn’t address the consequences of heavy reliance on fossil fuels either. Perry supports the crude oil pipeline from Canada to Texas, but in doing so he is likely to encounter the same vocal opposition from landowners that sunk the Trans-Texas Corridor, only the pipeline is 1,700 miles long while the corridor was more like 500 miles.
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Weekly dispatches from the middle of the road of Texas politics.
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