We have to do something about warming — Barrasso

Source: Nick Sobczyk, E&E News reporter • Posted: Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Conservatives and the energy industry are laying out their own path forward on climate change, as a growing coalition of progressives increasingly give the issue a refreshed public face.

In an op-edpublished this morning, Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) wrote that there are “three truths” for policymakers looking to reduce carbon emissions.

“The first is, the climate is changing and we, collectively, have a responsibility to do something about it. Second, the United States and the world will continue to rely on affordable and abundant fossil fuels, including coal, to power our economies for decades to come,” wrote Barrasso, a longtime backer of the energy industry.

“And third, innovation, not new taxes or punishing global agreements, is the ultimate solution.”

It was a striking acknowledgement from a senator who suggested just two months ago that the latest U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report amounted to “scare tactics” (E&E News PM, Oct. 10).

The op-ed was published at nearly the same time the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global Energy Institute published a report, which found the “keep it in the ground” movement has cost the U.S. economy nearly $100 billion by forcing delays and cancellations of major energy projects.

Taken together, the report and Barrasso’s op-ed underscore the moving pieces climate advocates would have to put together if they hope to pass major legislation in coming years, as the incoming crop of House progressives push for an aggressive plan to slash greenhouse gas emissions.

Backers of the “Green New Deal” platform, for instance, face opposition from some elements of the labor world they’re hoping to corral, in addition to Senate Republicans who have their own ideas.

On a conference call to roll out the U.S. Chamber report this morning, Terry O’Sullivan, general president of the Laborers’ International Union of North America, said he sees the “Green New Deal” platform outlined by Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) as a new iteration of “keep it in the ground.”

“If it walks like a duck, if it quacks like a duck, if it swims like a duck, it’s a duck,” O’Sullivan said. “To me, the ‘Green New Deal’ is just a regurgitated version of ‘keep it in the ground.'”

Even with a large investment in green jobs, it would be a no-go, he said, because oil and gas pipeline construction jobs tend to be more lucrative than installing renewables.

The Sunrise Movement, the primary group pushing the “Green New Deal” platform, has made specific appeals to organized labor. It recently backed union organization efforts at Tesla Inc., for instance, and the plan itself emphasizes the creation of a green jobs program and transitions for fossil fuel workers who would be affected by a massive transformation of the energy industry.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), who backed the “Green New Deal” last week, said while it’s not easy to get every labor group on the same page, building a big coalition is key to pushing policy. She added she’s been talking to Sunrise about convening labor and environmental groups to flesh out a set of principles for climate policy.

“Even if the net jobs are more in a renewable energy future, they’re not always in the same place,” she told reporters recently. “So that’s one piece of it, is what does it look like for the worker?”

O’Sullivan, whose group represents a broad range of energy interests and supports an “all of the above” energy policy, advocated this morning for a less rigid approach to transitioning away from fossil fuels.

The report he helped promote examines 15 delayed or canceled energy projects and New York state’s ban on hydraulic fracturing, all of which the Global Energy Institute says were influenced by “keep it in the ground” activists.

It also recommends a slate of reforms to the Clean Water Act and National Environmental Policy Act, which closely mirror proposals and talking points from the Trump administration.

O’Sullivan decried permitting delays and keep it in the ground, adding he’s “not that impressed” with what he’s seen so far of the “Green New Deal.”

“If they want to have a conversation, it needs to include more than just renewables because we’re not going to get there overnight,” O’Sullivan said.

On Capitol Hill, the conversation in the Republican Senate may turn soon to addressing climate in smaller ways, including through a possible infrastructure bill (E&E Daily, Dec. 13).

Barrasso said he wants to make it easier to develop the next generation of nuclear reactors and continue work on bipartisan carbon capture and utilization legislation.

“Citizens around the world will continue to reject climate policies that cost them personally, either by direct taxation or by undermining the competitiveness of their own economies,” he wrote. “The sooner the world’s leaders accept this reality, the sooner we will be able to put new and lasting solutions in place.”