Since the beginning of the recession, America’s “brown jobs” revolution has been one of the few bright spots in an otherwise shaky recovery. States like North Dakota and Texas have led the country in growth due to their strong energy sectors, and the discovery of vast quantities of shale gas in states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Colorado are now providing new jobs.
These states have more than shale gas in common: all of them are also on the short list of swing states that decide this year’s presidential election. Republicans are seizing the opportunity to make energy politics a centerpiece of their campaign. As the FT reports:
“Blue-collar voters were never that sold on environmental issues, and if some Democrats come across as not keen on economic development, it could lose them support here in Ohio,” he said.
Republicans, from Mitt Romney, the party’s presidential candidate, to the congressional leadership, have made Barack Obama’s alleged stifling of the energy industry a centrepiece of their campaigns this year. . . .
Mr Romney has said he will approve the Keystone XL pipeline as soon as he wins office and curb the powers of the Environmental Protection Agency.
Only time will tell whether this is a winning strategy, but there is reason to think it could work. As we’ve mentioned before, energy politics is an area where Obama is particularly vulnerable. His decision to nix the popular Keystone pipeline earlier this year signaled antipathy toward one of America’s strongest industries while doing nothing to help the environment; it was lambasted as a pointless blunder by observers on both sides of the aisle. Meanwhile, his pet projects in alternative energy have fallen flat, as debacles like Solyndra have received far more attention than the program’s few successes.
This should be seriously worrying to the Obama campaign. Brown jobs may be unpopular in Obama’s white-collar, urban, coastal base, but it is blue collar voters in swing states that are likely to decide the election, and many of these voters stand to reap significant benefits from an expansion of America’s energy sector. From a political perspective, Obama has placed himself on the wrong side of this issue. It may come back to bite him come November.