Election 2016

Republican Platform: Some Science Policy Proposals to Cheer About

No mandatory GMO labels, no energy subsidies, open Yucca Mountain, encourage thorium reactors, etc.



My Reason colleagues have highlighted some of the more egregious and confused areas of the 2016 Republican Party Platform with respect to gay marriage, domestic spying, criminal justice reform, and defense policy. A quick look at the sections of the platform that broadly addresses science policy uncovers some proposals about which to be at least mildly hopeful.

We oppose the mandatory labeling of genetically modified food, which has proven to be safe, healthy, and a literal life-saver for millions in the developing world.

Sadly, Congress has just passed legislation mandating federal GMO labeling. Admittedly this was done to obviate the proliferation of various confusing and conflicting state labeling mandates.

Government should not play favorites among energy producers. The taxpayers will not soon forget the current Administration's subsidies to companies that went bankrupt without producing a kilowatt of energy. … We support the development of all forms of energy that are marketable in a free economy without subsidies, including coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear power, and hydropower. …

We respect the states' proven ability to regulate the use of hydraulic fracturing, methane emissions, and horizontal drilling, and we will end the Administration's disregard of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act with respect to the long-term storage of nuclear waste. We encourage the cost-effective development of renewable energy sources — wind, solar, biomass, biofuel, geothermal, and tidal energy — by private capital.

There is a lot to like in these particular planks. It would, however, have been nice if the platformers had explicitly proposed eliminating federal biofuel mandates. It's great that the platform calls out Obama for violating the law in order to appease Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) who opposes opening the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste facility. After all, ratepayers have supplied $32 billion to pay for sequestering nuclear waste and it's way past time to open Yucca Mountain. In addition, there is no scientific evidence that fracking is causing significant health or environmental problems that would call for EPA regulation.

We support lifting restrictions to allow responsible development of nuclear energy, including research into alternative processes like thorium nuclear energy.

Great idea but would like a little more information on how restrictions would be lifted.

We assert that private ownership has been the best guarantee of conscientious stewardship, while some of the worst instances of degradation have occurred under government control. Poverty, not wealth, is the gravest threat to the environment, while steady economic growth brings the technological advances which make environmental progress possible.

Totally true.

The environment is too important to be left to radical environmentalists. They are using yesterday's tools to control a future they do not comprehend. The environmental establishment has become a self-serving elite, stuck in the mindset of the 1970s, subordinating the public's consensus to the goals of the Democratic Party. Their approach is based on shoddy science, scare tactics, and centralized command-and-control regulation.


We propose to shift responsibility for environmental regulation from the federal bureaucracy to the states and to transform the EPA into an independent bipartisan commission, similar to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, with structural safeguards against politicized science.

Well….considering how the NRC has been essentially killing off the industry that it regulates, this may not be exactly the right model for environmental regulatory reform.

We will strictly limit congressional delegation of rule-making authority, and require that citizens be compensated for regulatory takings.

If the government regulates away your reasonably expected economic gains from property, then it should compensate you for those losses. Alas, the Supreme Court is—charitably put—somewhat inconsistent on this issue.

Information concerning a changing climate, especially projections into the long-range future, must be based on dispassionate analysis of hard data. We will enforce that standard throughout the executive branch, among civil servants and presidential appointees alike. The United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is a political mechanism, not an unbiased scientific institution.

Yes. But it is interesting that this formulation implies that climate change could be a real thing. The 2012 platform just ignored the issue. On the other hand, the 2008 platform noted in a long section entitled, "Addressing Climate Change Responsibly":

The same human economic activity that has brought freedom and opportunity to billions has also increased the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. While the scope and long-term consequences of this are the subject of ongoing scientific research, common sense dictates that the United States should take measured and reasonable steps today to reduce any impact on the environment.

Reasonable steps back in 2008 included "technology-driven, market-based solutions." That does still sound pretty good.