Energy is a big issue in this election, a situation that has not occurred since the Arab oil embargo in the 1970s. The New York Times reported that energy has been mentioned in campaign ads more than any topic except jobs and the economy. Of course, the total amount spent on ads this year has increased for all types of ads. Another change this year is that, in comparison to 2008, the proportion of ads supporting fossil fuels has increased relative to ads supporting renewable energy or opposing fossil fuels. The New York Times estimated in mid-September that spending on ads supporting fossil energy or opposing clean energy is four times the amount spent on ads supporting clean energy.

One explanation for the political parties’ sudden interest in energy is that it is a surrogate for jobs issues. High levels of domestic oil and gas production and the expectation of continued production growth, suggest potential job growth. This is certainly an easier and more optimistic story to tell in a 30-second ad than an explanation of a candidate’s plan to stimulate job growth.

As an AAPG member you are probably well informed about energy issues, but don’t miss an opportunity to direct your friends and family to several non-partisan information sources. One of the more interesting options is the MIT Energy Debate between two competent and lively surrogates: Mitt Romney’s policy director, Oren Cass, and Joe Aldy, a special assistant to President Obama for energy and environment in 2009-2010. Another media source for non-partisan information is, which provides side-by-side comparisons of the presidential candidates’ answers to the top science policy questions including energy, climate change and federal funding of research.

If you want an in-depth analysis of the inside workings of the political process, you can purchase the Scientific American publication, “Playing Politics: The Science of Elections”, pictured here. It is available for $3.99 from iTunes.

Last 5 posts by Edie Allison

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