Solar Tribune

Ben Carson Surges in Polls: Will He Support Solar?


Ben Carson is rapidly gaining on Donald Trump in presidential polls. Unlike some of his rivals, Carson is saying good things about solar. But what is his energy plan?

although the retired neurosurgeon turned GOP presidential contender has been accused of being “anti-science” by climate change activists, he has been making some very positive comments about renewable energy and the environment. Beyond the generalities, what do we know about Carson’s stand on solar development?

According to Mother Jones, Carson commented on environmental issues and renewable energy at a recent appearance in Iowa. He stated that “I don’t care whether you are a Democrat or a Republican, a liberal or a conservative, if you have any thread of decency in you, you want to take care of the environment because you know you have to pass it on to the next generation. There is no reason to make it into a political issue.”  When asked about setting a national goal of 50% renewables by 2030, Carson replied “I want more than 50 percent.”

Like many other political candidates in both the Republican and the Democratic parties, Carson tends to soft-sell renewables as “future” technologies that need to be developed while we continue to expand domestic fossil fuel sources. In a campaign video on youtube, Dr. Carson states that the “EPA needs to be changed….they need to stop persecuting our energy producers and start helping them develop our energy in a clean, responsible way.”

This would suggest that if given the resources, the fossil fuel industry would voluntarily make a change to cleaner energy sources. Obviously, there is a great deal of room for interpretation here. Unfortunately, on Dr. Carson’s website, there is no mention of solar, renewable energy development, or energy policy, period.  The top 10 issues addressed on his website are “Protecting Innocent Life,” “Balanced Budget Amendment,” “Education,” “Keep Gitmo Open,” “Health Care,” “Keep Faith in Our Society,” “Russia and Lessons Learned,” “Protect the Second Amendment,” “Stand by Israel, Our Bulwark Middle East Ally” and “The American People Deserve a Better Tax Code.” No mention of energy, environment or climate, although Dr. Carson has been quoted as accepting the reality of climate change, but calling it “irrelevant.”

None the less, Carson’s positions do stray widely from the central Republican party talking points in a number of areas related to energy production. In May, unabashedly liberal news outlet MSNBC published a blog post entitled “Does Ben Carson have a liberal side?”  in which they essentially damn him with faint praise. From the article:

“I don’t particularly like the idea of government subsidies for anything because it interferes with the natural free market,” he began, according to The Des Moines Register. “Therefore, I would probably be in favor of taking that $4 billion a year we spend on oil subsidies and using that in new fueling stations” for 30% ethanol blends, he said, arguing gas prices would drop and the environment would benefit. “I don’t know any liberals that would say that,” said, laughing heartily at the infeasibility of the idea.

In a nutshell, here is what we know about the solar policy plans of the Republican candidate now leading the polls in Iowa, the first caucus state. Nothing. In all of his campaign literature, in all of his myriad of public appearances, Dr. Carson has made no reference to the fastest growing source of energy, other than part of a nebulous portfolio of future “cleaner, more responsible energy.”  As the primary campaign heats up (could it heat up more?) Solar Tribune will continue to follow the development of Dr. Carson’s energy positions.  Perhaps it will warrant the number 11 position on his list of important issues.

About the Author: Rich Dana serves as Director of Microenterprise Development for the Sustainable Living Department at Maharishi University of Management. He works with students to develop ideas and implement new projects. He is a serial entrepreneur, a freelance writer and partner in Plan B Consulting. He has served as an energy specialist at the National Center for Appropriate Technology and President of the Iowa Renewable Energy Association. At 53, he still likes to climb on roofs and install solar equipment.

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