Governor Rick Perry’s newly released energy plan, in focusing on domestic resources and the job opportunities prompted by energy infrastructure spending, in many ways echoes the energy policy of the Obama administration.

The US presidential election remains more than a year away, but jockeying over energy issues has already broken into the open as jobs and infrastructure spending take center stage in early debates among the declared candidates for the Republican nomination.

Texas Governor Rick Perry shone the spotlight of his campaign on the energy sector late last week as he announced an “energizing American jobs and security plan” he says will spark 1.2 million jobs and reduce US dependence on foreign oil supplies. Perry’s early progress in the primary campaign for the Republican nomination has hinged on his state’s comparatively robust economic performance, much of it rooted in the relative stability of the energy business over the past four years.

Perry released a detailed plan that took an aggressive stance against “environmental bureaucrats” and alleged support of foreign oil reserves by the Obama administration, but in many ways echoed the same basic concept – energy as a fundamental driver of economic growth – that has underpinned the current President’s support of cleantech and renewable energy.

“We are standing atop the next American economic boom – energy – and the quickest way to give our economy a shot in the arm is to deploy American ingenuity to tap American energy,” Perry said in his Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania speech announcing his energy plan. “But we can only do that if environmental bureaucrats are told to stand down.”

Domestic Focus For Energy Development

The focus on domestic energy echoed an earlier speech by President Obama defending his administration’s continued focus on clean energy research despite controversy over the failed Solyndrea loan. “We’ve got to have a smarter energy policy, because that’s a huge source of us having to import from other countries instead of being able to export to other countries,” Obama said on October 6.

“We’re not going to surrender to other countries’ technological leads that could end up determining whether or not we’re building a strong middle class in this country,” White House Deputy Assistant on Energy and Climate Change Heather Zichal said earlier this month discussing Obama’s jobs bill press conference. “We’re going to have to keep on pushing hard to make sure that manufacturing is located here, new businesses are located here, and new technologies are developed here.”

A Force For Fossil Fuels

Perry focused on fossil fuels, and said a combination of opening domestic oil and natural gas fields where exploration and development are currently limited, as well as approval of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline carrying Canadian crude to US markets, would support job creation. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton has repeatedly expressed fundamental support for the Keystone XL proposal. Clinton has yet to rule on the proposal, which is required to continue because the pipeline crosses the national border.

Perry’s plan also emphasizes state leadership in energy development. States like Ohio and Pennsylvania have already taken a leading role in natural gas regulation and development, although states like New Jersey and New York have implemented partial bans.

Perry said his plan relies on executive action and can avoid “Washington gridlock” by bypassing Congress, acknowledging the degree to which Obama Administration efforts to move forward on energy and jobs proposals have been stymied by Congressional inaction and polarization between Republican and Democrat members.

While Perry strikes a much more aggressive tone in addressing environmental issues, saying he will submit current “activist” environmental regulations to cost-benefit analysis, that approach actually echoes the recent reticence by the Obama administration to implement long-standing regulatory proposals that have a perceived adverse economic impact. The Obama administration delayed finalizing an EPA rule in early September that would have required power stations to cut emissions that contribute to ground-level ozone.

The President directed Environmental Protection Agency administrator Lisa Jackson to withdraw the Ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards until a scheduled review in 2013, saying that while he remains committed to protecting the environment, he also wants to cut regulation on industry.

Uncertainty about the shape federal energy policy will take has sown ambivalence in energy markets as analysts charged with forming company strategy have complained about increasing partisanship and lack of direction. With the role of the federal government in energy markets continuing to grow, the debate over energy spending and policy by presidential candidates has the potential to keep the sector turbulent as companies await greater policy certainty to make job-creating investments.

For more on energy policy, see: Coffee With The Governor or check out coverage under our Politics tag.