GOP tests tactics to sink liberal climate plan

Source: Adam Aton, E&E News reporter • Posted: Thursday, February 14, 2019

Republican opposition to the “Green New Deal” is taking shape, and it’s not just socialism bashing.

Senate Republicans are moving to wrong-foot supporters of the policy by holding an early vote on it. Republicans hope the show vote will exacerbate divisions among Democrats, who are still working to firm up their coalition of labor, indigenous and environmental justice advocates.

In the House, Republicans are experimenting with the more subtle tactic of engaging with the “Green New Deal” on its own terms, arguing it would harm other Democratic priorities. Those criticisms are filling the gaps left by the rest of the Republican caucus, which has historically denied climate science and dismissed any government policy to address rising temperatures.

The geopolitical ramifications of the United States quitting fossil fuel, how commodity and labor markets might react to drastic demands, and the social consequences of quickly remaking the energy sector were some of the issues raised yesterday by Republicans and their witnesses at a House Natural Resources Committee hearing.

Laudable as they might be, the plan’s goals are self-contradictory, said Joseph Mason, a professor at Louisiana State University’s finance department.

The proposal calls for a swift and just transition to clean energy over 10 years. But equitable policy needs time to address the needs of marginalized communities, Mason said.

For example, he said, wind energy projects so far have clustered away from population centers. Adding a lot more wind capacity promises to bring those developments closer to cities and homes — raising questions of whose neighborhood gets stuck with undesirable energy developments.

“Such a process takes time, and jobs will not be created until that process comes to a conclusion. A fair and just process will take many years,” Mason said.

That argument has resonated with some environmental justice advocates. The renewable energy sector cannot be allowed to copy the fossil fuel industry’s history of burdening poor, minority areas, said Chandra Farley, director of the Partnership for Southern Equity’s Just Energy program.

Another Republican line of attack centered on the rare earth minerals required for rechargeable batteries, wind turbines and solar panels.

Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) lifted a chunk of rare earth metal ore above the committee dais. Out-of-work coal miners could help expand production of these resources, he said, but instead the current supply chains overwhelmingly lead back to dangerous, dirty mines in Congo.

“Smeltering these rare earths … current technology uses concentrations of sulphuric acid, in which China is very lackadaisical [about overseeing],” Gosar said.

To be sure, the dominant theme from Republicans has been to attack the “Green New Deal” as a “socialist fairy tale.” Many lawmakers zeroed in on a fact sheet temporarily uploaded online by staff of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), which included proposals not covered by the resolution (Climatewire, Feb. 12).

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) brandished the fact sheet’s reference to a goal of expanding train networks to the point that air travel becomes unnecessary.

“I guess we’re going to set up a situation where the [Federal Aviation Administration] then can tell individual citizens which of their air travel is worthy and important,” she said. “Would you say we’re going to have some sort of a vacation commissar set up in the government to determine what kind of air travel makes sense and what kind doesn’t?”

Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), a co-sponsor of the “Green New Deal” resolution, tried interrupting her.

“An entire line of questioning based on absolute hooey,” he said after Cheney finished, urging people to read the actual resolution’s text instead of one congresswoman’s notes on it.

“There comes a point where this type of questioning is so disingenuous and so completely disconnected from anything factual that there ought to be a mechanism for striking it from the record,” he said.