A NAFTA Triumvirate Discussion, Part 2: Energy, Climate, Russia, and Populism

By Dave Smith, Senior Contributor, USDR.

“Whether you think climate change is a problem or not, change is coming in regulation, politics, and public opinion.” – Former Mexican President Felipe Calderon

As first discussed in the first installment of this 2-part series, the recent American Fuels & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM) International Petrochemicals Conference (IPC) featured a wide-ranging roundtable discussion between three former North American leaders: former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and former Mexican President Felipe Calderon. This installment is a continuation of Part 1.

Unsurprisingly, a major topic among petrochemicals manufacturers is environmental issues. Throughout the conference, recycling and climate change loomed large in many discussions – petrochemicals markets are based largely in plastics and derived from hydrocarbons, and use of hydrocarbons for petrochemicals production or energy production tends to result in hydrocarbon emissions, also known as greenhouse gas emissions (GHG).

All three had opinions on the issue. As referenced in the quote above, Calderon took the pragmatic position: regardless of what one believes about the severity of the threat, the political landscape is changing. From the Green New Deal promoted by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Beto O’Rourke, among others, to the recent announcement by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio that the Manhattan’s signature steel-and-glass skyscrapers “have no place on our Earth”, the political climate is indeed changing.

Dave Smith Said That

Cheney, a former energy executive, noted that while “virtually everything in our life is touched by hydrocarbons”, he said that he had his position had evolved; he has “come to believe” that at least some part of climate change is “manmade”, and asserted that “there has to be some solution to climate change.” Harper took the most stringent tone, observing that “80% of global energy is hydrocarbons” and that it is “impossible to restrain energy and sustain growth”. Given a true, stark choice between strong action on climate change and economic growth, he predicted that “public opinion will revert to growth”.

In discussing Russia, the three were united in their disapproval of Russian President Vladimir Putin, with Cheney declaring that “Putin has proved he’s no Gorbachev” and referring to reports that “he clearly is investing in hypersonic weapons”. He pivoted, however, and said that he believed China was a bigger long-term threat. Cheney also took a shot at President Donald Trump, saying that he is “not willing to work with the intelligence community”, and expressing concern that there is “no record of the discussions between Putin and Trump”.

Harper joked that he’s “not on Putin’s Christmas card list”, recalling that he “tried to get [Russia] kicked out of the G8 a year before it happened”. According to Harper, Putin is “doing a poor job governing Russia long-term” and he labeled Putin a “near-term disruptor” who is “motivated to enrich himself and his friends” who has a “sense of grievance” against the West. Further, he declared that Putin “will never be a strategic partner or ally of the West or the United States”.

Calderon was more laconic than the other two, but he did single out the significance of Putin sending troops to Venezuela to prop up the Maduro regime, stating that it is “important to recalibrate the threat” that Russian troops in South America pose to the rest of the Western Hemisphere.

When asked about their proudest accomplishments, Cheney named three: his work as President Gerald Ford’s chief of staff in the wake of Watergate and the resignation of President Richard Nixon, his work as Secretary of Defense for President George H. W. Bush during the collapse of the USSR and the first Gulf War with Iraq, and then being in the bunker on 9/11 and working to prevent another terrorist strike. Harper, perhaps in a shot at President Trump, mentioned his expansion of free trade in Canada and his claim that Canada has the “largest per capita immigration program in the world”. Calderon, saying that “when faced with crisis and difficulty, you can either complain or you can act and lead”, named confronting recession and crime in Mexico as his proudest accomplishment.

Finally, the discussion turned to the global growth of populist movements. Calderon noted that people were rightfully angry about corruption in many cases and that populism was the response because it “offers simple solutions to complex problems”. Harper said that he didn’t consider the rise of populism a threat, but rather “a wakeup call: address the problems or it will get worse”. Further, he warned that “if we adopt doctrinaire socialism, it will result in irreversible decline”. Cheney basically agreed that it was a negative movement, but did not really offer a solution; however, his disdain for the movement had been clear throughout his statements.

All three men offered both a unique perspective and a unique style of delivery during the discussion. It was an engaging and illuminating panel, and regardless of one’s political persuasion, full of insight and commentary worth attention.

Born in the same county as Davy Crockett in East Tennessee, Dave found his way to Texas where he works in the petrochemical industry. He’s written and spoken about politics on various media outlets including Fox, ABC, and Townhall. He is a graduate of Tennessee Tech with a degree in chemical engineering. Make sure to check out Dave’s popular series, “Profiles in Liberty” at USA Daily Chronicles. Follow Dave on Twitter: @semperlibertas.

All opinions expressed on USDR are those of the author and not necessarily those of US Daily Review.