Unlike a number of her competitors for the Republican presidential nomination, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina isn’t looking to pick a fight with climate change scientists: She’s said often that she believes the research on global warming and that human activity contributes to it.
Instead, she wants to do battle with the environmentalists.
Fiorina, who surged into second place in several polls following last weeks’ GOP primary debate, has yet to issue a formal energy platform, but in numerous interviews and campaign appearances in recent months, she has criticized the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan while arguing that the United States can have little impact on global warming.
"I think we have to read all the fine print," Fiorina told Yahoo news anchor Katie Couric in May. Her campaign did not respond to requests for comment for this article. "Every one of the scientists that tell us that climate change is real and being caused by man-made activity also tell us that a single nation acting alone can make no difference at all."
Fiorina, who unsuccessfully challenged Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) for her California seat in 2010, went on to criticize both California and federal initiatives to address carbon emissions, framing such efforts as "destroying people’s lives and livelihoods."
The Republican candidate argued that, instead, government should aim to spur "innovation," although she has not said whether that should include federal tax breaks or other incentives for clean energy technologies.
"We have to focus on how to make coal cleaner," Fiorina said in the May interview. "Coal provides half the energy in this nation, still, not to mention around the world. So to say we’re going to basically outlaw coal, which is what this administration has done, is so self-defeating. It destroys jobs. It destroys communities. It’s not helping us. It’s not helping global warming. Let’s get on with the innovation about how to make sure we actually have clean coal technology."
During an interview in June at a forum sponsored by the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity and the website RealClearPolitics.com, Fiorina went on to call for the repeal of the Clean Power Plan.
She argued that regulations aimed at reducing carbon emissions from existing power plants are "terrible."
"Every single one of them should be repealed," Fiorina said, according to The Washington Examiner.
She also reiterated her support for so-called clean coal technology at the event, while offering a lukewarm endorsement of wind energy as "fine."
"Meanwhile, it is slicing up birds day after day after day," Fiorina pointed out.
Fiorina has remained a relatively consistent track record on energy development dating back to her work on Arizona Sen. John McCain’s failed 2008 presidential run.
"I think we can’t simply say we need to reduce greenhouse emissions. We have to also say — encourage people to go after these new technologies," Fiorina said in a May 2008 interview on ABC’s "This Week."
At the time, Fiorina similarly urged incentives to private businesses "to innovate and set the best course of action," while discouraging government mandates for specific forms of energy generation (ClimateWire, Oct. 7, 2008).
During her 2010 Senate bid, Fiorina also attacked Boxer over the Democrat’s assertion that climate change is an important national security consideration.
"Terrorism kills, and Barbara Boxer’s worried about the weather," Fiorina stated in an ad (ClimateWire, June 8, 2010). "We’ve had enough of her politics. I’ll work to keep you safe."
During that bid, Fiorina also endorsed expanded offshore drilling and criticized the "American Clean Energy and Security Act," commonly known as the cap-and-trade bill, asserting it would "kill jobs."
Nonetheless, Fiorina’s campaign sought to emphasize her interest in global warming, even after she received support from Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), a prominent skeptic of climate change science.
"Carly believes climate change is a serious issue that needs to be addressed with policies that address the problem, encourage innovation and turn the green revolution into a job creation mechanism for California and the country," a Fiorina aide told the San Francisco Chronicle at the time (Greenwire, Nov. 19, 2009).
Fiorina has also addressed California’s ongoing drought, repeatedly arguing that the government’s failure to build new dams and storage systems in recent decades is a major cause of the state’s current troubles (E&ENews PM, April 7).
"With different policies over the last 20 years, all of this could be avoided," Fiorina said earlier this year. "Despite the fact that California has suffered from droughts for millennia, liberal environmentalists have prevented the building of a single new reservoir or a single new water conveyance system over decades during a period in which California’s population has doubled."
Fiorina made similar statements during her campaign against Boxer, and at the time called for a temporary repeal of the Endangered Species Act to lift pumping limits and provide more water to state agriculture users.
Michael Madrid, the co-director of the University of Southern California Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll, said Fiorina’s fledging energy stance puts her in the middle of the 14-candidate GOP pack at a time when many contenders have yet to roll out formal policy proposals.
"It sounds like she’s striking a more centrist tone. She’s acknowledging climate change is happening now, which differentiates her from the Republican field, and she’s also saying, ‘We have to do things differently,’" said Madrid, who is also a Republican strategist with the GrassrootsLab.
He added: "The average American voter acknowledges there are environmental impacts to our heavy use of petroleum products. … That’s where she’s trying to find the right place."
In a recent CNN/ORC International survey, Fiorina jumped into second place in the sprawling GOP field from her previous spot at the back of the pack.
The Sept. 17-19 poll continued to show businessman Donald Trump at the top of the field with 24 percent, followed by Fiorina with 15 percent and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson with 14 percent. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush rounded out the top five with 11 and 9 percent, respectively.
The poll of 444 registered voters had a margin of error of 4.5 points. In a previous CNN/ORC International poll conducted Sept. 4-8, Fiorina received 3 percent of the GOP primary vote.
ConservAmerica Executive Director Rob Sisson said that while Fiorina has "started down the right road," he’d like to see the former corporate executive continue to evolve on environmental issues.
"Innovation and technology are certainly one of the primary ways that we will combat climate change and give us the ability to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and it is also something we can export to other countries," said Sisson, who heads the GOP environmental group.
He added: "Where she needs to complete the thought is that actually the United States has led the developed world in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions."
Sisson pointed to natural gas’s growing role in energy production rather than coal and said he would like to see Fiorina and other candidates endorse exports to other countries, which could likewise reduce emissions around the globe.
"The area where I differ with her — and I look forward to her position evolving — is the United States can’t do this alone," Sisson said. "We can unilaterally take carbon out of our energy mix without harming jobs in the United States and without harming our economy. I believe we need to be a leader and not wait or follow other countries."
But while Fiorina has been open in her acceptance of climate change science, she has not persuaded environmentalists at the League of Conservation Voters to embrace her candidacy.
"Because the next president will determine whether we continue to make progress or slide backward in the fight against the climate crisis, we are urging every presidential candidate to be explicit about their plans to combat the greatest challenge of our time," LCV spokesman Seth Stein told E&E Daily. "The next president must create real and lasting solutions that cut carbon pollution while creating a clean energy future that continues to improve the economy and creates jobs. So far Carly Fiorina has not announced any concrete plans for tackling climate change."