Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman is again making headlines due to his eminently reasonable and comparatively forward-looking ideas on topics like science and energy. First, in a move perceived by the Republican establishment as radical, he said that he trusts scientists on issues like climate change. That caused a ruckus amongst conservatives who blasted him for alleged ideological impurity -- and simultaneously exposed how extreme the Republican party has become, and how far it has drifted from science.
Now, Huntsman is again causing a stir. He recently released his proposal for an energy plan, and it includes venturing into territory hitherto considered anathema to the modern GOP: Cutting off the flow billions of dollars in subsidies to Big Oil.
“We cannot simply drill our way to energy security; we also need to use the power of the marketplace,” the former Utah governor said... “This means breaking oil's monopoly as a transportation fuel, and creating a truly level playing field for competing fuels.” Comparing the dominance of gasoline and diesel to the breaking of networks’ power in the 1970s, Huntsman advocated for converting some of the nation’s fleet to natural gas.Of course, he's right. The fact that every year, tens of billions of dollars worth of taxpayer money go towards lining the pockets of the most profitable companies on the planet amounts to highway robbery. Unfortunately, the rest of Huntsman's energy plan isn't so appealing -- it relies primarily on more domestic drilling for fossil fuels, and supports hydrofracking.
“I will systemically begin to eliminate every subsidy for energy companies, whether it be oil, natural gas, wind or solar,” he said. “Under my presidency, the United States will get out of the subsidy business. And if necessary, I will use my executive authority to act unilaterally.” That money would instead go to energy research.
At this point, Jon Huntsman may have given up entirely on winning over the Republican base, which is currently dominated by hard right Tea Party folks. As such, he's free to say things that make a lot of sense, and accordingly, piss off Rush Limbaugh and Fox News pundits. The fact that the nation is instead paying much more attention to a guy who's received three separate accusations of sexual harassment, has a tax plan that makes next to no sense, has an extremely limited understanding of foreign policy, and whose campaign manager may have broken the law in funding his election effort should tell you something about the quality of our national political discourse.