The Fuse

Energy Policy 2016: Spotlight on former Florida Governor Jeb Bush

by R. Kress | June 15, 2015

Editor’s Note: From now through November 2016, The Fuse is your go-to resource for energy policy in the presidential race. We will be providing a detailed look at the top candidates, examining both rhetoric and action from now through election day.  

Status: Officially launched June 15, 2015.

Party: Republican

Background: Two-term governor of Florida; son of 41st President George H. W. Bush, and brother of 43rd President George W. Bush.

Domestic Production: Historically, Bush is a strong advocate for ending dependence on foreign oil. In a 2011 interview with National Review editor Jay Nordlinger, Bush called for a “domestic energy policy that would create a huge burst of economic activity.” Bush argued, “We spend $400 billion a year, net, going out to places where there’s not any economic activity attached to it—no investment, no jobs created in our country—because we are dependent on foreign oil. And we have more resources, more natural gas and oil resources perhaps, than any country in the world today.”

Green on the Road to the White House: Bush is already taking some heat from members of his own party for his past support of environmental protection projects.

Biofuel Fallout: Key primary state Iowa could prove an early political quagmire for Bush. In the past, Bush’s statements have criticized a national energy policy that prioritizes corn-based ethanol over “second-generation” fuels from algae, woods, grasses, plants, and other sources. Furthermore, conservatives have grown increasingly critical of the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS), a mandate requiring every gallon of gasoline to include 10-percent renewable fuels—which, at present, is primarily corn ethanol. The RFS, and the policy’s corn-ethanol provisions, has taken heat from both environmentalists and the oil and gas industry. Of course, it remains popular in Iowa given the state’s corn-heavy economy.

At the 2015 Iowa Ag Summit in March, Bush diverged from the Republican party line, stating that the RFS has “worked, for sure” and was a positive step in cutting American dependence on foreign oil. Less clear, Bush added that, “at some point we’ll see a reduction of the RFS need because ethanol will be such a valuable part of the energy piece of our country. Whether that’s 2022 or sometime in the future I don’t know.” In a state where the RFS has been vital to sustaining the economy, these comments have been heavily scrutinized.

Kill the Drill: When it comes to preventing drilling off the coast of Florida, Bush has taken on some very powerful people: Even fighting his own brother’s presidential administration. As a haven for beach-loving tourists, Florida’s residents and tourism industry fear the implications of offshore drilling along its approximately 1,400 miles of coastline.

In 2001, the George W. Bush administration proposed opening a six-million acre area of the Gulf of Mexico to drilling, which would have come within 30-miles of Pensacola. Then Governor Jeb Bush said he expected no special treatment, even though the President was his (literal) “bro”. In the end, the leasing area was shrunk considerably, pushing any drilling offshore by at least 100 miles.

Since then, Bush has incrementally dialed back on his opposition to offshore drilling. In February, he told the Detroit Economic Club that domestic drilling on federal lands and water were the key to “assuring America’s energy security…” adding that, “We have the chance—if we can create an energy policy based on American innovation and North American resource…to create the lowest cost energy source in the world.”

Fracking: Politically, Bush is an advocate of hydraulic fracturing and onshore oil and gas drilling. He’s drawn criticism in the press as he’s also personally invested in fracking companies and technologies. Britton Hill, a private equity group that Bush chairs, raised $40 million to support a company called Inflection Energy that acquires fracking wells, alongside other holdings in oil and gas.

Bush’s son, George P. Bush, is now the elected Texas Land Commissioner, and was voted in after founding a company that provides sand for fracking. Both Jeb Bush and his younger son Jeb Bush Jr. are vested in the company.

Keystone XL Pipeline: Bush has called the construction of Keystone XL a “no-brainer.”  According to a recently released email from 2006, during Bush’s term as Florida governor, he offered to help expedite processes for the engineering company working on pipeline’s predecessor.

Florida Rivalry: If Bush does in fact choose to run, he’ll be up against his own protégé, Florida Senator Marco Rubio. Back in 2010, Rubio asked his mentor for permission to run for Senate—refusing to challenge Bush for the same job if he wanted to throw his hat in the ring as well. But when it comes to 2016, the two could openly become rivals, leaving Republicans in the Sunshine State divided.