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Three Prominent Republicans Care About Climate Change, Sort Of

7:37 am in Uncategorized by Josh Nelson

In recent weeks, three prominent Republicans — Mitt Romney, Chris Christie and Jon Huntsman — have publicly affirmed their belief in climate change and the need to reduce pollution. This is good news!

But as far as I can tell, they don’t have a plan to address the issue between the three of them.

The most recent was Mitt Romney, the presidential candidate and former Massachusetts governor with a tendency to play both sides of every issue. At a town hall style campaign event in New Hampshire on Friday, Romney said:

I don’t speak for the scientific community, of course, but I believe the world’s getting warmer. I can’t prove that, but I believe based on what I read that the world is getting warmer. And number two, I believe that humans contribute to that. I don’t know how much our contribution is to that, because I know that there have been periods of greater heat and warmth in the past but I believe we contribute to that. And so I think it’s important for us to reduce our emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases that may well be significant contributors to the climate change and the global warming that you’re seeing.

This isn’t the first time Mitt Romney has sounded like an environmentalist. In 2003, he told his constituents that he would not “not create jobs or hold jobs that kill people,” while pointing at a coal plant.

But six weeks ago he told Greta Van Susteren that he would lower gas prices by drilling for oil and burning lots of coal:

Well, you get the prices down by convincing people who are investing in gasoline futures, so to speak, the speculators — you let them understand that America is going to be producing enough energy for our needs. And that means we’re going to start drilling for oil. We’re going to use our natural gas resources, which are now extraordinarily plentiful, given new technology. We’re going to use our coal resources. Of course, we’re going to pursue all the renewables, but you have to have oil and gas to power America’s economy.

And at today’s town hall at the University of New Hampshire, Romney downplayed clean energy and electric cars. “I love solar and wind (power) but they don’t drive cars. And we’re not all going to drive Chevy Volts,” he said. He also warned against working to solve the problem unless China and Brazil were participating in the solution, reminding the crowd that “it’s not called American warming, it’s called global warming.”

Last week it was Chris Christie, the New Jersey Governor who is being recruited into the presidential race by a group of wealthy Iowans. In an impressive speech, Christie talked the talk:

When you have over 90% of the world’s scientists who have studied this stating that climate change is occurring and that humans play a contributing role it’s time to defer to the experts. Climate science is complex though and we’re just beginning to have a fuller understanding of humans’ role in all of this. But we know enough to know that we are at least a part of the problem. So looking forward, we need to work to put policies in place that act at reducing those contributing factors.

But at the same time, Christie announced that New Jersey would be leaving the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a 10-state, voluntary cap and trade system designed to reduce emissions. The New Jersey Sierra Club credited the governor with destroying “the first and most successful greenhouse gas reduction program in the country.” Brad Plumer convincingly argues that Christie had to distance himself from climate policy in order to play on the national stage.

In mid-May it was Jon Hunstman, the former Utah Governor and President Obama’s former Ambassador to China, forging the path that Chris Christie and Mitt Romney later followed. “This is an issue that ought to be answered by the scientific community; I’m not a meteorologist. All I know is 90 percent of the scientists say climate change is occurring,” he told Time Magazine. “If 90 percent of the oncological community said something was causing cancer we’d listen to them. I respect science and the professionals behind the science so I tend to think it’s better left to the science community.”

If he had stopped there, that would have been fine. He meant climatologist and the 90% figure is low (it is more like 97%), but no major harm was done. But then he added, “though we can debate what that means for the energy and transportation sectors.” Asked about cap and trade, Huntsman kept digging. “Cap-and-trade ideas aren’t working; it hasn’t worked, and our economy’s in a different place than five years ago,” he said, concluding, “much of this discussion happened before the bottom fell out of the economy, and until it comes back, this isn’t the moment.”

Romney and Christie both went further than Huntsman did, saying we have to reduce emissions. And Huntsman and Christie both cited the same inaccurate 90% figure, with Huntsman even paraphrasing Al Gore with the doctor/scientist comparison. But what sticks out the most about their remarks is that all three are opposed to doing anything productive to solve the problem. If any of these three has a plan for dealing with climate change that doesn’t include cap and trade, a carbon tax or massive investments in clean energy, they should explain what their plan is and how it would work.

Will the GOP Nominate a Climate Change Denier in 2012?

10:13 am in Uncategorized by Josh Nelson

In the early stages of the race for the Republican Presidential nomination in 2012, eight names are mentioned most frequently: Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, Newt Gingrich, Haley Barbour, Bobby Jindal and Dick Cheney.

Of these eight early contenders, five outright deny or question climate science, while the remaining three are opposed to all meaningful action.

If Gingrich, Jindal or Barbour wish to claim they are not opposed to all meaningful action, they’ll have to present plans that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions to the extent scientists say is necessary, which is on the order of an 80+ percent reduction from 1990 levels by 2050. An ‘All of the Above’ strategy of increased domestic oil and gas development and incentives for nuclear plants that will never be built does not even come close.

Candidate Position
Mitt Romney Climate Science Denier
Mike Huckabee Climate Science Denier
Dick Cheney Climate Science Denier
Sarah Palin Climate Science Denier
Tim Pawlenty Climate Science Denier
Newt Gingrich Opposed to Meaningful Action
Bobby Jindal Opposed to Meaningful Action
Haley Barbour Opposed to Meaningful Action

Mitt Romney, as part of the unveiling of the Massachusetts Climate Action Plan, wrote:

"If climate change is happening, the actions we take will help," Romney wrote. "If climate change is largely caused by human action, this will really help. If we learn decades from now that climate change isn’t happening, these actions will still help our economy, our quality of life, and the quality of our environment."

Mike Huckabee, speaking with Katie Couric of CBS News:

Katie Couric: "Do you think the risks of climate change are at all overblown?"

Mike Huckabee: I don’t know. I mean, the honest answer for me, scientifically, is I don’t know.

Dick Cheney, speaking to ABC news in 2007, said:

"We’re going to see a big debate on it going forward," Cheney told ABC News, about "the extent to which it is part of a normal cycle versus the extent to which it’s caused by man." What we know today, he added, is "not enough to just sort of run out and try to slap together some policy that’s going to ‘solve’ the problem."

Sarah Palin, talking to GOP boss Rush Limbaugh yesterday:

RUSH: What’s our biggest energy challenge as a country? Do you believe at all or some or a lot in the modern-day go-green movement of solar and wind and all of these nefarious things that really don’t produce anything yet?

GOV. PALIN: I think there’s a lot of snake oil science involved in that and somebody’s making a whole lot of money off people’s fears that the world is… It’s kind of tough to figure out with the shady science right now, what are we supposed to be doing right now with our climate. Are we warming or are we cooling? I don’t think Americans are even told anymore if it’s global warming or just climate change. And I don’t attribute all the changes to man’s activities. I think that this is, in a lot of respects, cyclical and the earth does cool and it warms.

Tim Pawlenty, who was once an advocate of clean energy solutions to the climate crisis, has steadily moved in the wrong direction as his national ambitions have grown. Think Progress recently documented his regression as follows:

Dec. 2006: Pawlenty lays out an ambitious clean energy program for Minnesotans to reduce their use of fossil fuels 15 percent by 2015. Cutting greenhouse gases, Pawlenty said, would “be good for the environment, good for rural economies, good for national security and good for consumers.” He also calls for a regional cap and trade program.May 2007: Pawlenty signs the Next Generation Energy Act of 2007, requiring the state to reduce its emissions 15 percent by 2015 and 80 percent in 2050. At the signing ceremony, Pawlenty said Minnesota was “kicking-starting the future” by “tackling greenhouse gas emissions.”

Oct. 2007: Pawlenty declares that the climate change issue is “one of the most important of our time.” He also brushes off “some flak” from right-wingers who doubt climate change science.

Sept. 2008: During the election, Pawlenty backs away from his own cap and trade program, says such a system would “wreck the economy.” He then tells hate radio personality Glenn Beck (a climate change denier) that human activity only contributes “half a percent” to climate change.

Nov. 2009: Pawlenty backs away from acknowledging that any human activity is the cause of climate change.

While Newt Gingrich does not openly deny climate science, he is vehemently opposed to any meaningful legislation or regulation to address it. In testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Committee in April (PDF), he said:

This is the wrong bill for our national security.

This is the wrong bill for our economy.

This is the wrong bill for government of, by, and for the people.

He went on to cite widely discredited cost estimates and tout the wonders of coal and oil shale, two of the most polluting energy sources on the planet. This is not an all of the above strategy as Gingrich would like to claim. The emphasis is drill here, drill now, more of the same.

Bobby Jindal‘s press secretary released the following statement in September 2009:

"Governor Jindal has made it clear he believes that the House passed cap and trade bill punishes the American energy industry and that’s the last thing we need to do when we are trying to become more energy independent. The legislation will make it harder to create new manufacturing jobs in the US, and the Governor opposes it."

In a March 2001 memo to Vice President Dick Cheney (PDF, page 17), then energy industry lobbyist Haley Barbour urged the Bush administration not to let environmental initiatives trump sound energy policy. Specifically, he wrote:

A moment of truth is arriving in the form of a decision whether this Administration’s policy will be to regulate and/or tax CO2 as a pollutant. The question is whether environmental policy still prevails over energy policy with Bush-Cheney, as it did with Clinton-Gore. Demurring on the issue of whether the CO2 idea is eco-extremism, we must ask, do environmental initiatives, which would greatly exacerbate the energy problems, trump good energy policy, which the country has lacked for eight years?Most Americans thought Bush-Cheney would mean more energy and more affordable energy.

20 GOP Politicians Repeat $1,761 Clean Energy Bill Lie

4:35 pm in Uncategorized by Josh Nelson

I’ve written several times in the past few weeks about the $1,761 energy tax lie Republicans have latched onto to oppose clean energy legislation. For those who haven’t been following, here is how this went down:

STEP ONE: "News" generated by right-wing think tank.

STEP TWO: Right-wing print journalists write "breaking news" story.

STEP THREE: Promoted by Drudge, story repeated endlessly on right-wing blogs, Twitter, and talk radio.

STEP FOUR: Republican politicians, right-wing think tanks, and polluter front groups release statements of shock and outrage.

STEP FIVE: On Fox News, Glenn Beck calls President Obama a liar/socialist/Marxist/communist/fascist/racist.

Here is how I characterized the willingness of Republican politicians to latch onto this lie at the time:

Despite immediate and forceful pushback from the Treasury Department, the Congressional Budget Office and environmental groups, solid reporting by the Wonk Room and the Washington Post, and thorough debunkings by Media Matters and Politifact, several leading GOP elected officials have begun citing the highly misleading figure.

Since I wrote that a few weeks ago, several Republican politicians have continued repeating the lie.

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Mitt Romney is a Liar and a Fool When it Comes to Cap and Trade Legislation

4:41 am in Uncategorized by Josh Nelson

I noted yesterday that Mitt Romney had picked up on the $1,761 cap and trade lie over the weekend, telling a starstruck audience at the hyper-conservative value voters summit that cap and trade legislation would "would cost the average American family $1,761 a year."

Evidence has now surfaced that Romney told the $1,761 lie at least once before the summit began, in this interview with Human Events on Friday the 18th. Note the difficultly with which Romney struggles to explain not only how this is supposedly a 15% tax, but also the exact purpose of cap and trade legislation:

Cap and trade gets a failing grade in that it represents that we are now at $1,761 cost per average family in American, it would represent effectively a 15% increase in our tax grade, or the equivalent of a 15% increase in our tax rate. It will not improve the world’s climate simply because high greenhouse gas emits will move from a nation like ours to a nation like China where they don’t have those limits.

Ah, if only we could improve the world’s climate supply! At one time I considered Mitt Romney a formidable candidate Democrats should fear. That time has now passed. So Mitt — if you are reading this — please run for President in 2012.

Eight GOP Politicians Parrot False $1,761 Talking Point on Costs of Climate Bill

2:00 pm in Uncategorized by Josh Nelson

I mentioned last week that both CBS and Politico were forced to issue corrections on pieces they published citing inflated cost-estimates of a version of climate legislation that was never considered by Congress.

Despite immediate and forceful pushback from the Treasury Department, the Congressional Budget Office and environmental groups, solid reporting by the Wonk Room and the Washington Post, and thorough debunkings by Media Matters and Politifact, several leading GOP elected officials have begun citing the highly misleading figure.

Brad Johnson has an important piece at Think Progress documenting the process conservatives used to disseminate this misleading talking point:

STEP ONE: “News” generated by right-wing think tank.

STEP TWO: Right-wing print journalists write “breaking news” story.

STEP THREE: Promoted by Drudge, story repeated endlessly on right-wing blogs, Twitter, and talk radio.

STEP FOUR: Republican politicians, right-wing think tanks, and polluter front groups release statements of shock and outrage.

STEP FIVE: On Fox News, Glenn Beck calls President Obama a liar/socialist/Marxist/communist/fascist/racist.

Reading Brad’s meticulous documentation of how this meme was disseminated, I realized that they are setting this up to be one of the major talking points in the fight against clean energy legislation in the months to come. From the looks of things, marching orders have already gone out. Eight Republican elected officials, several of whom are in leadership positions, have already begun parroting this talking point:

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