US energy policy takes backseat in presidential, VP debates

October 6, 2016 By    

Eighty-four million viewers tuned in for the first presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, and tens of millions more watched Tim Kaine and Mike Pence spar in the first and only vice presidential debate eight days later.

The candidates verbally jousted on a number of topics – from the economy, national security and illegal immigration to Clinton’s emails and Trump’s tax returns. The debates covered a lot of ground, but one area of interest to the propane industry that went virtually untouched was U.S. energy policy.

Neither NBC’s Lester Holt, who moderated the presidential debate, nor CBS’ Elaine Quijano, who moderated the vice presidential debate, pressed the candidates with a prepared question about energy policy. Energy did loosely come up on a couple of occasions, but it was woven into candidate remarks tied to other debate topics.

The word “propane” didn’t come up once in either debate. No candidate mentioned the vast economic and energy opportunities at hand in America’s shale-rich areas, either.

Clinton did, however, reference one specific energy form.

“We can deploy a half a billion more solar panels,” Clinton said. “We can have enough clean energy to power every home. We can build a new modern electric grid. That’s a lot of jobs. That’s a lot of new economic activity.”

Trump responded.

“She talks about solar panels. We invested in a solar company, our country,” said Trump, referring to Solyndra, which defaulted on a Department of Energy guaranteed loan worth $535 million in 2011. “That was a disaster. They lost plenty of money on that one. Now look, I’m a great believer in all forms of energy. But we’re putting a lot of people out of work. Our energy policies are [a] disaster.”

Kaine, Clinton’s running mate, brought up energy early in the vice presidential debate. He grazed over energy as a component of Clinton’s economic policy.

“Hillary and I have a plan that is on the table that is a ‘you’re hired’ plan,” he said. “[It’s] five components, [and the] first thing we do is we invest in manufacturing, infrastructure and research into clean energy jobs of tomorrow.”

Aside from energy, another topic of interest to the propane industry that came up in both debates was government regulation. Trump discussed regulation in tandem with his and Clinton’s tax plans, arguing that Clinton’s approach to regulations is disastrous for small businesses.

“You are going to regulate these businesses out of existence,” Trump said, directing his comments to Clinton. “I’ve been all over. The [thing] businesses and people like the most is the fact that I’m cutting regulation. You have regulations on top of regulations and new companies cannot form. And old companies are going out of business, and you want to increase the regulation and make them even worse. I’m going to cut regulations.”

Clinton responded to Trump’s assertion but did not directly address his remarks on her regulatory approach.

Clinton and Trump will meet again Sunday at Washington University in St. Louis. The third and final debate is scheduled for Oct. 19 at UNLV.

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About the Author:

Kevin Yanik was a senior editor at LP Gas Magazine.

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