GOP ready to ‘cross the Rubicon’ on climate — Graham

By Mike Lee | 04/26/2019 07:09 AM EDT

DALLAS — Republicans are preparing legislation for 2020 that might serve as their party’s framework for addressing global warming, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) said yesterday. “The Green New Deal sucks,” he said, “but climate change is real.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). Gage Skidmore/Flickr

DALLAS — Congressional Republicans are developing legislation to introduce next year that could serve as the GOP framework for addressing climate change.

The language will likely center on energy efficiency, natural gas use and technology to clean up coal-fired power plants, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told reporters yesterday at a banquet sponsored by EarthX, an Earth Day event in Dallas.

The bill is meant to highlight the perceived problems with the Democrats’ Green New Deal proposal, which Republicans have labeled as costly and bad for business. Graham chairs the Roosevelt Conservation Caucus in the Senate, the Republican group that was formed to promote environmental stewardship in both chambers of Congress (E&E Daily, March 4).


"We owe it to the country to have an alternative to the Green New Deal," Graham said. "We’re going to sit down with the president and see if we can unveil a bill for 2020 that would be good for the environment and good for business."

Graham at the event said he’s frustrated because large parts of the Republican Party still resist the idea of climate change legislation.

"Let’s just cross the Rubicon," he said. "Let’s, as a party, say the Green New Deal sucks but climate change is real."

The bill represents the latest of several Republican efforts to find an approach to address the country’s reliance on fossil fuels. Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee has proposed a five-year "New Manhattan Project for Clean Energy Independence," which would boost spending on energy storage, carbon capture and advanced nuclear technology (E&E Daily, March 26).

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said in March that both parties need to work together on the issue (Energywire, March 12).

EarthX’s founder, Dallas real estate mogul Trammell Crow, has used the annual event to try to promote dialogue between environmentalists and Republicans in Washington, including a string of Trump officials (Greenwire, May 4, 2018).

During a panel discussion at the banquet, Graham and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said Congress is close to a breakthrough on addressing climate change that will also help the GOP. And yet progress has been slowed because of pressure from the oil industry and the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which allowed a flood of political contributions to influence Congress, Whitehouse said.

"As soon as the logjam breaks, you’re going to have, I think, very significant climate action," Whitehouse said.

Graham said Republicans can benefit politically from a climate deal. "If you want this party to grow — people from 18 to 35 believe in climate change whether you do or not," he said.

Both senators acknowledged it may be hard to get the Trump administration to approve a bill. Graham said it could happen if Democrats can be convinced to compromise on immigration, one of Trump’s signature issues.

The Trump administration, though, has dismissed the idea of a link between fossil fuel use and global climate change. Trump has called the scientific consensus on climate change a hoax and said he’d withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry, who spoke at the same banquet, stuck to the administration line, saying the United States has become the biggest oil and gas producer while reducing energy-related carbon emissions.

"When the rest of the world gets serious about taking action, I hope they’ll take a look at us," said Perry.

Renewable power sources like wind turbines and solar power are too unreliable to power the whole country, Perry said. They can help the United States reduce its carbon emissions, but the country will still need baseline power sources like coal and nuclear power, he said.

"When the sun doesn’t shine or the wind doesn’t blow, a single natural disaster or a serious cyberattack would do," Perry said.

The secretary earlier in the day dismissed rumors he’s preparing to leave the Trump administration. During an interview with a local NBC affiliate, Perry reiterated that serving as DOE chief is the "most interesting job" he’s ever had.

When asked if he was planning to stay at the agency, Perry replied, "Indeed."