Ohioans may want to tune out the barrage of political ads that flow from their dubious distinction of being both a presidential and hotly-contested Senatorial battleground.  Yet they can’t ignore the consequences of the policy decisions being made by their political representatives.  One place they see those consequences first-hand is at the gas pump.

Gasoline prices in Ohio reached $3.73 in September, according to the AAA Fuel Gauge report.  Nationally gas prices have climbed about ten percent during the past year, and are close to doubling from when the President took office in January 2009.

Fluctuating gas prices are no surprise, and Americans know that prices can be affected by events—from hurricanes to Middle East turmoil—that policymakers can’t control.  However, energy policies are an important factor in the determining the long-term supply of fuel and the regulations that govern energy production and use.  Ultimately, these decisions dictate the trajectory of fuel costs.  And American women should take note:  Energy costs have a big impact on your gas, electric, and grocery bills, as well as the number of job opportunities that are—and sadly today, too often aren’t—available. 

Ohioans should take note that Senator Sherrod Brown has consistently been on the side of those policies that make energy more expensive, from discouraging oil exploration to crippling regulations on coal-production to an effective tax on carbon, which would raises the cost of just about everything American families buy and use. 

For example, Senator Brown voted against the Offshore Production and Safety Act of 2011, legislation that would have restored the ability of American companies to seek energy resources and ensured an efficient permitting system.  He also voted against legislation in 2006 that would have allowed for oil and gas exploration in Alaska’s resource-rich Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.  Had such exploration been allowed six-years ago, our supplies would likely be greater today.  He also voted against the Keystone Pipeline, which would have enabled the transportation of Canadian crude oil into the United States for processing, creating thousands of jobs and lowering energy prices along the way.

Brown has also been a supporter of cap-and-trade legislation.  The term cap-and-trade and the exact process of how such a system would work, with companies buying and exchanging carbon permits, can be confusing.  The bottom-line for Ohio is that a cap-and-trade program would function as a tax on carbon.  Its express purpose is to discourage the use of energy and release of carbon by making it more expensive.  That means higher costs for gasoline, manufacturing, home heating and cooling—and just about everything else that requires power. 

Analysts have estimated that cap-and-trade would ultimately result in the loss of more than 110,000 manufacturing jobs in Ohio alone.  It would reduce the total income of state residents by more than $4 billion by 2030, and leave Ohioans paying 20 percent more for gasoline by 2025. 

While Democrats haven’t garnered enough support to pass cap-and-trade legislation, the Obama Administration’s Environmental Protection Agency has moved forward in regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant and greenhouse gas.  Congress took up an amendment to block that move—which not only would be costly for the American economy and individual families, but represents a power-grab by unelected agency officials—but Brown voted against it, thereby green-lighting EPA’s potentially massive new intervention into the American economy. 

Senator Brown knows that EPA’s burdensome regulations could be devastating to the economy, and yield little environmental benefit in return.  He even urged the president to reconsider the Administration’s approach to Greenhouse Gas regulation, warning that it could backfire both environmentally and in terms of job creation and economic growth.  Yet actions speak louder than such words, and when the Senator’s voting record has consistently supported EPA overreach and prevented valuable fossil fuel development.

Families struggling to make ends meet and find employment should keep this to keep in mind.  Energy policy is economic policy.  The availability of energy, as well as the regulations for its use and development, may be most visibly seen when filling up gas tanks.  Yet those costs and uncertainty about future energy costs ripple through the economy, affecting just about every good or service families buy and the cost of doing business.  Higher energy prices contribute to the financial woes of employers, leaving less for expansion and hiring. 

Ohioans may want to ignore the latest campaign commercial, but they shouldn’t ignore how the policies candidates’ support will impact their future.

Carrie Lukas is a vice president of the Independent Women’s Voice.