Instead of debating how many trillions the Green New Deal will cost, House Republicans have a suggestion for Democrats: Pass a slew of GOP-backed bills aimed at reducing greenhouse-gas emissions without razing the U.S. economy and energy sector.
As it turns out, however, there’s little Democratic appetite for legislation to promote carbon capture, or reduce regulations on energy efficiency, or spur development of advanced nuclear energy, not when 2020 Democratic presidential candidates are pushing for net-zero U.S. carbon emissions.
All of which rankles Republicans who say they grow weary of being called “deniers” even as their ground-ready solutions are ignored or derided by climate activists focused on what Texas Rep. Dan Crenshaw dismissed as “fairy tales and socialist utopias.”
“If Democrats want to tackle climate change, they should work with Republicans on serious solutions that can become law,” said Rep. Greg Walden, Oregon Republican.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee Republicans drove home the point Wednesday by posting a list of seven bills — one for each hour of CNN’s “climate crisis” town hall — described as “commonsense, bipartisan solutions to tackle climate change.”
“Regrettably, a seven-hour, televised parade of the most radical ideas from 2020 Democrats is taking priority over serious policy to continue emissions reductions, boost clean energy, and protect America’s economy and workers,” said the committee minority.
Included were bills to promote carbon-capture innovation; reduce wildfire risk through aggressive forest management; fuel advanced nuclear technology development; improve government energy efficiency, and reduce diesel emissions.
“Hey, here are some bipartisan solutions that clean up the environment, promote innovation, don’t ruin the economy, AND are based in reality!” tweeted Mr. Crenshaw. “Or we can believe in fairy tales and socialist utopias by banning nuclear, cleaner natural gas, plastic straws and cows.”
Climate activists have responded by accusing Republicans of promoting “innovation” and “solutions” as a smokescreen to appease voters and undermine the economic and energy overhaul sought by progressives such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, New York Democrat.
Those bent on bringing down the fossil-fuel industry are also less than thrilled with the GOP push for technologies such as carbon capture, which removes and stores carbon emissions, while efficiency measures are seen as insufficiently ambitious.
“We keep hearing this buzzword: innovation. It’s basically code for, ‘Let’s let the fossil-fuel industry and other carbon-intensive industries figure this out. Government shouldn’t get involved,’ ” Jesse Bragg, media director for Corporate Accountability, told Pacific Standard. “Innovation, in that sense, is the status quo.”
Then there’s nuclear. Although Democrats have long described human-caused climate change as an “existential threat,” the party is deeply divided on nuclear power, despite its ability to provide low-cost, abundant, carbon-free energy.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts Democrat, came out at Wednesday’s town hall against nuclear energy after proposing a $3 trillion climate plan that calls for 100% zero-emissions electricity generation by 2035.
“The problem is it’s got a lot of risks associated with it, particularly the risks associated with the spent fuel rods,” said Ms. Warren, adding, “In my administration, we are not going to build any new nuclear power plants, and we are going to start weaning ourselves off nuclear energy.”
In the House, Democrats have been accused of grandstanding by holding dozens of climate hearings with little legislative follow-through. The party’s biggest climate victory this year was the passage of H.R. 9, a resolution to stop President Trump from exiting the 2015 Paris climate agreement.
Rep. Rob Bishop, Utah Republican and ranking member of the House Natural Resources Committee, said hearings have focused on “fluff,” although that’s not necessarily a bad thing, given that “the more time they spend on going through this fluff, the less time they have to do damage.”
At the same time, he said the House leadership is wasting opportunities to “actually directly solve problems with the atmosphere.”
“What we keep mentioning are: Why aren’t we talking about forest fire mitigation, which destroys the atmosphere and the air?” Mr. Bishop said. “Why aren’t we talking about carbon sequestration, that can be done with grazing, that can improve the air and actually solve some of these problems? Why aren’t we talking about regulatory permitting?”
House Natural Resources Committee chairman Raul Grijalva and Rep. Jared Huffman, California Democrat, said Republicans seeking solutions need to “stand up to their denialist colleagues.”
“We would love to work on a broadly bipartisan response to the climate crisis,” they said in a July 28 op-ed for Business Insider. “But that depends on whether climate deniers and the fossil-fuel industry continue to call the shots for congressional Republicans.”
For Rep. John Curtis, Utah Republican, the denial runs both ways. Democrats have decried Mr. Trump’s plan to withdraw from the Paris accord, but the agreement sets lower emissions targets for China, the world’s biggest carbon polluter.
“There are people who would claim that Republicans deny science,” Mr. Curtis said. “I say you’re denying science if you’re not willing to look at the impact on the whole world, and are simply looking at the impact on the United States.”
As mayor of Provo, Utah, he spearheaded clean-air efforts aimed at reducing vehicle traffic, at one point riding his bike to work for 100 days over the course of a year.
In Congress, however, Mr. Curtis, who replaced Rep. Jason Chaffetz in November 2017, said he has become frustrated with the “all or nothing, unrealistic approach to addressing climate change.”
“It’s as if, ‘Our way is right, and unless you agree with us 100%, get out of the way,’” Mr. Curtis said. “Unless you can support the Green New Deal, you don’t care about the environment. That’s a winner-take-all philosophy.”