The 112th Congress has been named the most anti-environmental in all of U.S. history. With over 300 instances of the Republican-led House of Representatives voting against the environment since 2011, the most recent being the “single worst,” environmentally-concerned voters have decided whom not to vote for. Historically, Republicans were the leaders in environmental protection, but the political arena has changed. Why must conservatism have nothing to do with conservation? Ron Paul and Rick Santorum call for the elimination of public lands, John McCain and other conservatives criticized Obama’s ban on uranium mining, and Republicans for Environmental Protection dropped the “Republican” from its name (the latter caused quite a stir). With even 52% of Republicans stressing climate action, the party as a whole relentlessly attacks clean energy and climate legislation. Perhaps these leaders will follow their constituents if current environmentally-concerned Republicans would press these issues.
The presidential primary race contains a multitude of ridiculous statements. Rick Santorum, discussing the dangers of carbon dioxide, stated, “Tell that to a plant”. Mitt Romney doubted clean energy since “you can’t put a windmill on a car,” while Newt Gingrich criticized the American-made “Obama car” Chevrolet Volt because “you couldn’t put a gun rack in the back,” (which later turned out to be untrue). Gingrich used to stress “green conservatism” and even sat on the couch with Nancy Pelosi to discuss climate change. He later regretted the action and even ripped off a Christian Climate scientist. I should refrain from mentioning any more logical fallacies, so as not to reinforce their opinions. It could be that candidates would appeal more to the right and move back to the center at the time of the election, but the problem is more complicated than that. What’s most impressive is not the absurdity of some candidates’ statements on the climate, but rather the unpopularity of other certain candidates. Jon Huntsman, the only Republican candidate that has almost consistently maintained an affirmative position on the climate, dropped out of the presidential race last January due to low polling numbers. Furthermore, Huntsman has drawn criticism implying the G.O.P. has become the “anti-science party.”
This term has been circulated more in the past few years. President Obama even accused some members of being in the “flat-Earth society.” When confronted with a complex problem, the Republican legislators have called for non-preventative solutions. With energy and environmental issues, Republicans have a fixation on building dykes. Even though they have consistently suggested increasing the size of the military, Republicans refused to listen to military officials about the devastating effects of climate change. A Romney campaign staffer paradoxically wrote in a letter,
If Armageddon is coming from climate change,” the staffer asks, “wouldn’t your first priority be shoring up defenses to protect natural resources, have Guard and Reserves and ships and planes for disaster relief?”
In addition to practically ignoring military climate threats, Republicans have accused generals of lying and also funded complete opposites of military clean energy requests. The easiest route for Republicans would be to trust military officials and the vast majority of scientists that study the climate.
Green jobs and renewable energy are not all that suffer from failing to align with climate (or any) science. Leeco Steel LLC was growing even during the recession, with the wind as the sole factor of growth. George David Banks, a former aide to climate denier Senator James Inhofe, stresses the necessity of extending the production tax credit (PTC) for job preservation and creation. Rather than attack sustainability problems with innovation and alternative energy, Republicans instead call for more extractive measures like drilling in the gulf, arctic, ANWR, and public lands. The United States could see a surge in technical innovation, or we can maintain the status quo. As most of the world understanding the dangers of climate change, including our friends to the North with only 2% denial percentage, it is no mystery why the United States is the only nation incubating organized hostility towards climate scientists.
Why must Republicans attack these programs and policies so consistently? Perhaps Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) summed up the true Republican position on the climate best: “I was actually on your side of this issue when I was chairing that committee and I first heard about this. I thought it must be true until I found out what it cost.” I am not opposed to being motivated by money, but serious problems occur when money shapes core beliefs. He added insult to injury by later stating, “I want sound science, and they do not want sound science.” If fixing the climate crisis was really that expensive, which it is not, the cost would reflect the severity of the issue. While repair costs prohibit Republican participation in greenhouse gas regulation, industry money and lobbying against clean energy plays another roll:
– 8-to-1 on lobbying in 2009
– 4-to 1 (or more) on advertising in 2009
– 8-to-1 in donations to candidates and Congress members in 2010 cycle
– 10-to-1 on independent election expenditures in 2010
DirtyEnergyMoney.com lists six congressmen, all Republican, receiving a combined $10.3 million from the fossil fuel industry over their time in office. In regards to military involvement in climate change, I’d confidently agree that the government would have more trouble extorting resources from foreign areas. In Blood and oil, Michael T. Klare points out former Republican Vice President and former Halliburton CEO Dick Cheney allowed American oil-services firms like Bechtel and Halliburton to contract or invest in multibillion-dollar development projects in Iraq. As one European oil executive put it, “For any oil company, being in Iraq is like being a kid in F.A.O. Schwarz.” Despite becoming increasingly moving into renewables, the military and contracting companies would have trouble explaining using oil to fight in oil-rich regions when contributing to climate change. Also, Democrat Alan Grayson is personally investigating the potentially illegal funds given to contractors by the government. This fossil fuel money might not influence every decision Republicans see in Congress, but it certainly plays a big part.
Although a few Democrats oppose climate legislation and the debates are practically devoid of climate discussion, the most Democrats understand the science and want to act on it. This feat actually helps them in the polls. When numerous books and articles are coming out on the GOP being the anti-science party, I cannot help but laugh as Alan Grayson dictates his contribution earnings in binary and hexadecimal code that he learned in college. Republican action plans contain brief talking points of environmental protection, though even those are decreasing. Their unbridled faith in the free market extends to environmental policy, which causes several problems. Hopefully, Republicans can welcome clean energy and climate solutions, so global cooperation does not need to be a partisan activity.