Summertime campaign season blues

For those of us living in northern climates it’s hard to believe that the summer fun is already more than half over. But, a short summer and a long winter tends to pay the bills in the heating industry, so there’s not much room to complain.

Looking through the energy-related bills being pushed in Washington, it’s also apparent that we are in a campaign season that’s winding down. An industry lobbyist whom I have a great deal of respect for clued me in years ago to the fact that during any campaign season nothing serious comes out of Washington between March and the actual election in November. Although a lot of bills are being pushed that have absolutely no chance of passing and serve strictly to get out the vote, there are objectively significant differences between both parties on energy issues. Each offers various pluses and minuses for the heating oil dealer.

In past years you could expect some degree of movement to the center after the primaries, which though not officially put to bed as this goes to press are fairly well set. However, both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump have thrown a wrench in the works.

For Sanders’ part, he has forced Hillary Clinton—largely an establishment type candidate— to lean more left in her policy proposals including those relative to energy. This is mirrored in the Democratic Party platform, apparently adjusted to gain Sanders’ formal endorsement of Clinton. As Warren Gunnels, Sanders’ policy director announced: “I am extremely proud of what we have accomplished tonight. This is the most aggressive plan to combat climate change in the history of the Democratic Party. As a result of this plan natural gas is no longer regarded as a bridge to the future. The future of America’s energy system now clearly belongs to sun and wind power. But we are not finished. We have got to follow through on the promise of this agreement, to put people before the profits of polluters and solve the global crisis of climate change before it’s too late.”

While the aggressive push against fracking and natural gas development seems appealing to the heating oil industry, it should be noted that a future role for oil is not even discussed in these circles.

For Trump’s part, although he colors outside the GOP establishment lines on many issues, with energy he is far more conventional. Trump has long stated that he wants to maximize all of America’s energy opportunities, which obviously includes more natural gas development but at the same time includes the development of relatively inexpensive oil through the same processes.

So if you take it at face value, Clinton will likely minimize pipeline concerns in the Northeast and Northwest but it would not be a huge surprise if her administration showed little love for oil and refined fossil fuels. Trump would seemingly allow policies that would promote the expansion of natural gas pipelines, likely primarily for export but obviously residential conversion opportunities would be a side effect. He would also likely work to keep the price of heating oil cheap. It should be noted that both candidates have expressed fairly strong support for biofuels and renewable energy.

But still, it’s campaign season and the record of political candidates following through on campaign promises or platform objectives has not exactly been stellar throughout American history. A lot is going on in America with domestic turmoil and international uncertainties. Voters, our readers and me included, have a lot to think about between now and November.

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