• ECHO Action Editor

Republicans Have Better Solutions to Climate Change

By Greg Walden, Fred Upton & John Shimkus February 13, 2019

Climate change is real, and as Republican Leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, we are focused on solutions. A serious, solutions-oriented discussion about how to address this challenge, while protecting the interests of the American people, our communities, and our country’s economic well-being is fundamental to getting this right.

America’s approach for tackling climate change should be built upon the principles of innovation, conservation, and adaptation. Republicans have long championed realistic, innovative, and free-market strategies to promote a cleaner environment and to reduce emissions. The results are clear: The United States is leading the world in reducing greenhouse gas emissions thanks to vibrant energy sector competition and innovation. In 2017, U.S. carbon emissions were the lowest they’ve been since 1992. Despite a slight increase in emissions in 2018, mostly due to the positive development of increased American manufacturing, analysts project U.S. emissions will remain flat in upcoming years at roughly 13 percent lower than 2005 levels.

We must address climate change in ways that focus on American prosperity and technological capabilities while maintaining America’s leadership in clean and renewable energy innovation.  By doubling down on innovation, we can supply the world with new tools to combat emissions.

We should continue to encourage innovation and renewable energy development. We should promote carbon capture and utilization, renewable hydropower, and safe nuclear power, which is emissions-free. We should also look to remove barriers to energy storage and commercial batteries to help make renewable sources more viable and our electricity grid more resilient. And we must encourage more research and business investments in new clean energy technologies.  These are bipartisan solutions we must seize on to deliver real results for the American people.

Meanwhile, many Democrats are rallying around the recently introduced Green New Deal. This agenda calls for a 10-year plan to move U.S. power generation to 100 percent zero-emission energy sources. But even though this proposal is being billed as a solution to climate change, it also includes numerous unrelated, prohibitively expensive policy goals such as government-run health care and guaranteed employment.

While a full analysis of the Green New Deal has not been completed, the sheer scale and cost to implement such a proposal could have potentially devastating consequences on our national debt and on our economy.  One initial estimatecalculated that if the U.S. were to transition to 100 percent renewable electricity production—assuming it is even possible—it would require at least $5.7 trillion in expenditures. A bill ultimately picked up by the American taxpayers. Think what that might mean for heating bills in the winter or commuting costs? Or how it could push American jobs overseas to countries that have lax environmental standards.

The Green New Deal also ignores the rest of the world’s contribution to emissions. Even as we become cleaner in the United States, emissions around the world are increasing. China and India accounted for nearly half of the increase in global carbon emissions in 2017, and developing world emissions will continue to rise to the point that all of the United States and Europe’s emissions will soon be far surpassed by other economies.

And their plan omits commonsense policy like improving the way we manage our federal forests to reduce the risk of catastrophic fires. That’s a real problem, right now, that ought to be addressed. The emissions from California’s wildfires in 2018dumped an estimated 68 million tons of carbon into the atmosphere. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says that sustainably managing our forests will create the longest sustained carbon mitigation benefit.

Furthermore, the Democrats’ Green New Deal plan minimizes the realities of current American and global energy systems. It ignores fundamental societal needs for affordable, reliable energy. In fact, the plan dismisses clean energy technologies essential for any future energy system, and would ban the more practical climate solutions that we should be working together to promote, such as expanding renewable hydropower and safe nuclear power, which again, has zero carbon emissions.

Similar policies to the Green New Deal are already being pursued across Europe with little success. Germany’s recent energy efforts show how spending billions to shift from nuclear power to renewable energy can increase emissions and utility bills, and France’s yellow-vest protests reveal how people understandably reject costly policies that require massive tax increases and more expensive transportation.

The reality is, the Green New Deal is a policy of regulation, taxation, and ultimately, economic stagnation. Americans deserve better. That’s why we back sensible, realistic, and effective policies to tackle climate change. Let’s encourage American industry to do its part through innovation. Let’s focus on community preparedness. Let’s harness our great American ingenuity to develop new tools that we can market to the world, as we’ve done before. And together we can leave the planet better than we found it.

Rep. Greg Walden represents Oregon’s 2nd District and is the Republican Leader of the Energy and Commerce Committee. Rep. Fred Upton represents Michigan's 6th District and is the Republican Leader of the Energy and Commerce's Energy Subcommittee. Rep. John Shimkus represents Illinois’ 15th District and is the Republican Leader of the Energy and Commerce's Environment and Climate Change Subcommittee.


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