Q&A: Scalise talks IRA repeal, EVs and hopes for Trump

By Kelsey Brugger | 03/22/2024 06:49 AM EDT

The House majority leader took a victory lap on “energy week,” dismissed climate change as a threat but was circumspect on the prospects of repealing the landmark 2022 climate law.

Rep. Steve Scalise speaks during a press conference on Capitol Hill.

House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) during a press conference in March. "I don't think man is destroying the Earth," he said in an interview. Francis Chung/POLITICO

For years, House Republican Leader Steve Scalise has been a fierce defender of fossil fuel production, unconvinced of mainstream climate science. He remains unapologetic.

The Louisiana Republican hyped the “energy week” bills that would make it easier and cheaper to drill oil and gas on federal lands, oppose climate policies embraced by even some oil companies and gut the Democrats’ major clean energy legislation.

While Democrats have mocked energy week, focusing instead on the enormous threat posed by climate change, Scalise appeared unbothered by their cause for alarm.


“It’s the same people who always have some kind of hysteria,” he said. “They want to get people worked up, and their answer is always to raise your taxes and to kill American energy.”

In an interview Thursday in his office on the third floor of the Capitol, Scalise reflected on Republican policy achievements like their key energy legislation, H.R. 1. And he previewed what a Republican-controlled White House and Congress could do on energy and climate policies.

He stopped short of pledging to repeal the Inflation Reduction Act wholesale, but he suggested there were administrative actions former President Donald Trump could do to dilute the law on his own.

Below is the conversation, edited for length and clarity.

During energy week, you have talked about these bills in the context of national security, foreign policy and affordability. In contrast, Democrats have talked about the existential threat of climate change. What’s your response and remind us of your position on human-made climate change? 

So, I don’t think man is destroying the Earth.

If you go back 10,000 years before there was a combustion engine, then the earth’s temperature is warmer. There was going to be a freezing period in the ’70s that they were talking about, then it was going to be acid rain in the 80s.

It’s the same people who always have some kind of hysteria that they want to get people worked up about, and their answer is always to raise your taxes and to kill American energy.

So you disagree climate change is an existential threat? 


So, if their concern is carbon emissions, you would want to make more energy in America. Joe Biden has canceled lease sales here in the United States. He cancels the Keystone pipeline. He makes it harder to get permits to expand and explore for energy in America, but then he gets on Air Force One and flies to Saudi Arabia and begs them to produce more oil.

So, it’s not like he’s against all forms of oil and gas, and if oil and gas is destroying the planet, he shouldn’t want any. He just doesn’t want any made in America.

What do you say to Democrats? 

My counter to them would be: What do you have against American ingenuity? We do it better than anywhere else in the world.

If your policies are resulting in us importing energy from dirty states — states that don’t have good standards like we do — you’re emitting more carbon. And if carbon’s the problem, you’re making it worse. And it raises costs on American families. It’s lunacy.

If Republicans won back the White House and Senate and kept the House, is energy week a preview for what we could expect next year? 

Yes. H.R. 1 was our signature piece of energy legislation, and that’s been in the Senate for about a year now awaiting action. Energy week this week is some additional bills featuring some other items: how to streamline permitting, how to get more [liquefied natural gas] produced, how to address some of the other problems that Joe Biden has created.

It’s like every month he does something new that makes it harder to produce energy here at home, which makes us more dependent on foreign countries. It defies logic.

This week is also the week of Biden’s electric vehicle push. EPA unveiled the so-called Clean Car rules. What’s your reaction? 

When they talk about EVs, they want to get rid of fossil fuel cars — as if you plug your battery car into a tree. Where do you get the battery from? Go see how these batteries are made. You don’t get them off the shelf at Walmart. They are excavating the earth in China without the standards that we have. Their mining standards are way below ours.

It’d be much cleaner to mine for lithium in Minnesota, but Joe Biden has made a lot of those things off limits here. Over 90 percent of the solar panels are made in China using coal power. They say they hate coal, and then they tout solar panels as if it’s the panacea, but then almost all the solar panels are made with coal because you can’t get enough baseload energy capacity with solar power.

I hope those forms of renewable energy advance, but today, they aren’t there.

The GOP energy package H.R. 1 would repeal some of the Inflation Reduction Act. As we see more IRA projects like battery plants, for instance, in red districts, is that going to put Republicans in a difficult position? Especially as we see more ribbon cuttings, more jobs, more economic development? 

Overall, there haven’t been many projects built.

But what about over time?

If you look at a lot of the mandates they put in that bill are unworkable. They mandate union jobs. They mandate a lot of dramatically higher costs for some of the things that shouldn’t be so expensive to the point where it makes the projects cost prohibitive. So a lot of those projects get canceled.

So would you do a wholesale repeal of the IRA, if you could?  

We’re scrutinizing all of it.

So TBD on exactly what a repeal would look like? 

Yeah. Hopefully Donald Trump is president in January, and a lot of this he can turn around quickly on his own. Because Joe Biden did most of the damage through executive action. It’s like the border. He literally could reverse the damage he did opening up the border, but he doesn’t want to.

What would be top of the Trump executive action list?

The first thing he could do would be to green-light some of these projects that Biden crushed: green-light the Keystone pipeline, start approving permits again, open up exploration, have lease sales. He can remove the ban on LNG exports.

Europe is getting their LNG from [Russian President Vladimir] Putin. Biden is putting billions of dollars in the pockets of Putin, who is funding his Ukraine war using energy that Biden’s letting them sell on world markets. We could be selling and undermining Putin. And people have figured this out.

But Democrats are starting to talk more about the fact the U.S. is producing more oil and gas today than ever before.  

Production today is a result of decisions being made five to 10 years ago, which was way before Joe Biden was president. The decisions Joe Biden is making today are hurting production two to five years down the road.

Have you been talking to the Senate about permitting reform? 

This is something we’ve tried to get the president to negotiate with, but he just refuses, because they make it harder to get the permits deliberately.

But ostensibly, they want to do something on permitting to boost clean energy, right? 

There was something in the debt ceiling bill, but they kind of backtracked on some of that.

Do you think Republicans and Democrats could strike a deal — maybe in the lame duck?

There’s always been an opportunity for us to work together, but the president has got to be willing to fix these problems. The issue is he created them, and he doesn’t want to fix them.