Stephens Media columnist Steve Brawner explores several subjects in his latest essay. He poses 12 questions for the new year that he hopes to see answered. They are good food for thought in this new year.

Here are a sample of 3 questions from this column:

How quickly will Republicans pick a presidential candidate?

A protracted struggle would mean Arkansans would cast a meaningful vote in the May primary, which doesn’t always happen. It also would mean President Obama could rest on the sidelines for a while and watch as the Republicans spend money and beat each other up.

What impact will independent candidates have on the presidential race?

If ever there were an election when someone outside the two main parties could shake things up, this is the year. The economy is weak, the national debt is rising and both the president and Republicans suffer dismal approval ratings. The right independent candidate, and there could be more than one, would force the major party nominees to talk about unpleasant subjects such as the national debt, a la Ross Perot in 1992.

Can Arkansas be both The Natural State and the natural gas state?

What’s under that dirt is an incredible resource that employs a lot of people, burns cleaner than oil and reduces our dependence on oppressive regimes. Water, however, is an even more valuable resource. The natural gas industry and its defenders tell us not to worry about what could happen to our drinking water. I really want to believe them. We can make this work, but it will take effective government regulation. Yes, government regulation.

You can read Brawner’s full take here.

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