GOP Wrestles With Climate Change Bill

Posted April 21, 2009 at 6:34pm

As hearings over climate change legislation commence this week in the House, Republicans have made known their distaste for the Democratic solution to the problem.

Their own solutions, though, remain unclear.

Earlier this year, Republicans had little choice but to agree that the economy was in crisis. Their vigorous rejection of the Democrats’ economic stimulus bill, however, saddled them with the “party of no— label, which they have been fighting to shed ever since.

On climate change, Republicans are again in the tough spot of having to start the debate by conceding that the problem exists, while they watch Democrats get early traction on solving it.

“Republicans need to rally around a strong messaging alternative, and that has to be the free market and the innovation that occurs from the free market,— one former GOP aide said.

House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence (Ind.), head of the Republican task force charged with generating an energy alternative, indicated that many of the GOP ideas would be drawn from the American Energy Act — the bill that House Republicans pushed in the 110th Congress. That bill relied heavily on increasing domestic energy production but was criticized for its emphasis on oil drilling.

Pence criticized the Democratic bill, specifically the provision that sets a cap on carbon emissions and allows companies to trade emissions under that cap, saying the majority has no cost estimates for the proposals in the bill.

“I certainly learned in the weeks before the break that people prefer more detail in certain proposals, especially numbers,— Pence said, poking fun at his own party’s much-lampooned release of their first budget alternative that contained no figures.

Pence stressed that Republicans will be prepared shortly to offer their own counterproposal on energy.

“We are for clean air, we are for clean water, we are for clean energy,— he said. “We are not for taxing people out of house and home.—

House Republicans also claim the Environmental Protection Agency’s recent move to use the Clean Air Act to regulate carbon emissions will result in higher taxes, and one GOP aide said that will underscore the message that Democrats are becoming increasingly hostile to energy production.

Michael Steel, a spokesman for Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), added that Republicans want to help address climate change but believe that there is a different way of going about it.

“House Republicans want to work with Democrats to advance policies that will promote clean air, clean water and a healthy environment, but we will oppose policies that destroy our economy and kill millions of American jobs,— he said. “The idea that there is only one way to try and improve the environment, like through a job-killing cap-and-trade regulatory scheme, is flat wrong. And we believe the Democrats’ plans amount to a national energy tax that will increase the costs for every single American.—

Democrats contend that the money generated by the cap-and-trade proposal will reduce costs to consumers and that millions of jobs will be created in green industries as demand for new energy technologies rises in the U.S. and in foreign markets.

Global warming has been a touchy subject in Republican circles for years. It was not long ago that the words “climate change— were not in the GOP vernacular, and there are still members of the Conference that argue the problem has been wildly exaggerated by environmental groups.

Former President George W. Bush acknowledged global warming was a problem late in his presidency and was met with criticism from the right.

Some Republicans, while accepting that climate change is a problem, doubt that human-produced carbon emissions are at fault.

“The idea that carbon dioxide is a carcinogen, that it’s harmful to our environment, is almost comical. Every time we exhale, we exhale carbon dioxide. Every cow in the world, when they do what they do, you’ve got more carbon dioxide,— Boehner said during an interview Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.— “Listen, it’s clear we’ve had change in our climate. The question is, how much does man have to do with it and what is the proper way to deal with it? We can’t do it alone as one nation.—

That is exactly the view that the Rev. Jim Ball, a spokesman for the Evangelical Climate Initiative, is trying to change.

“Groups that have been propagating [climate change] are not the most trusted messengers in the evangelical community,— he said.

“Human-induced global warming is real,— he said. “The science is about as crystal clear as you can get.—