State of the Union

Full length interview with Rep. Bill Johnson (R-Ohio)

Rep. Bill Johnson (R-Ohio), a member of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, says the president is "small and irrelevant" to the challenges facing the United States.

Transcript

Monica Trauzzi: Congressman, the president tonight called for a change to the way we do politics. Are rational constructive debates on climate change possible?

Rep. Bill Johnson: Well, I don't know if rational debates on climate change because the president has a very different idea than I and most of the people that I represent and my colleagues do. It's interesting to me that after seven years of division and partisanship he now wants to call in his eighth year for political unity. I mean, I don't know that I've ever seen a president in my lifetime look more small and irrelevant in the face of such global challenges. No, he talks about a robust economy. We've got the lowest labor participation rate in our country in decades with almost a third of our citizens either out of work or no longer looking for a job. He talks about a more safe and secure world, and yet he struck a deal with a nuclear Iran that's moving closer and closer to a nuclear weapon and capturing some of our warriors just today. He talks about how we're more secure from terrorism when ISIS is on the move and they're growing throughout the world. He talks about a vibrant economy when the coal industry, many of whom I represent in eastern and southeastern Ohio, are on the ropes with tens of thousands worrying about whether they're going to keep their jobs.

Monica Trauzzi: But he highlighted the fact that the U.S. led the way to this what he called "ambitious agreement" on climate change with over 200 countries signing on, is that not significant?

Rep. Bill Johnson: Well, you know, I've been to Europe, and I've talked to some of those countries that their politicians are echoing what the president is saying about climate change. Do you know that those countries are returning to a higher mix of coal in their energy profile? Because their businesses and their ratepayers refuse to pay the exorbitant high prices for alternative fuels like wind and solar and biofuels and such? You have to go talk to the people in Europe and hear what the real people are saying, not what the president comes back and says they're saying.

Monica Trauzzi: One of the guests sitting next to the first lady this evening was Mark Davis who owns a business focused on bringing solar to low-income families. Under President Obama the cost of solar has gone down significantly. Could people like Mark Davis do what they do without all of the clean energy policies that the president has put into place?

Rep. Bill Johnson: How can we say that the cost of solar has come down? What is that relative to? Where did the cost of solar start? And how does the cost of solar compare to the low-cost affordable reliable energy that's provided by coal? Ohio gets about 60 percent of its energy from coal, tens of thousands of jobs that are supplied by the coal industry. It's the most affordable energy on the planet. It has provided the energy for America's innovative engine for generations. Solar provides energy when the sun shines. Here in our region the sun doesn't shine every day. In many parts of the world the sun doesn't shine every day. Maybe some day, and maybe it'll be Ohioans like the gentleman you're talking about that figures out how to store and harness the sun's energy so we can use it later, but they haven't done that yet. Same thing applies to wind. Wind produces energy when the wind blows, but you can't hold on to that energy and provide the baseline load that our energy grid demands. If we have another polar vortex like we did in 2013-14, you're going to have some real problems with the energy grid that we've got today.

Monica Trauzzi: All right, congressman, thank you for your time.

Rep. Bill Johnson: Thank you very much.

[End of Audio]

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