Republicans, as usual, were fairly unified in their opposition to the Senate climate bill released Wednesday. But things got awkward when they attempted to describe why they're against it—because the party is divided between those who think action will destroy the economy and those who still question whether climate change is occurring at all.
On Wednesday afternoon a handful of Republican senators hosted a press conference following the release of the Boxer-Kerry bill. The assembled lawmakers included a few, like Alaska's Lisa Murkowski and Tennessee's Lamar Alexander, who do acknowledge that climate change is a) real, b) caused by people, and c) a problem. But they were joined by climate change deniers James Inhofe of Oklahoma, Kit Bond of Missouri, and Mike Barrasso of Wyoming, who trotted out the usual skeptic talking points.
Inhofe, as usual, did not disappoint. "We've asked that question of the Oklahoma Farm Bureau, and the answer is no," he explained. "They're feeling is that God is still up there, we go through cycles, and there's not that strong of a relationship between anthropogenic gases and climate change."
Bond placed similar faith in farmers from his home state. "None of the farmers I have talked to in Missouri have expressed concerns about human-caused global climate change," he said. "We have seen in Missouri the benefits of the cooling that started in '98. We've had ample rain. We are right now worrying about making sure the growing season is long enough."
Barrasso, meanwhile, was all over the map. He tried to change the subject in response to a question about whether he believe climate change is real, then rambled on about how he's talked to some people who are skeptical of anthropogenic warming before citing an experimental carbon-capture project in Wyoming to "lower and to capture and sequester carbon dioxide." Nevertheless, he eventually concluded: "I don't believe it is a problem at this point."
Murkowski, however, has acknowledged that climate change is a problem—perhaps because Alaska is suffering from the impacts more than others. At one point in time, she was seen as a possible "yes" vote for a bill. But she took a firm stance against the Boxer-Kerry measure yesterday."We must determine how to balance environmental progress with economic growth," said Murkowski. "Our economy is already struggling—now is not the time to enact a bill that impose financial burdens that extent of which we don’t know for sure."
She also criticized the bill for its lack of details and abundance of placeholder language, which is intended to give an opening for other senators—perhaps even Murkowski—to shape the final text.
Alexander, another lawmaker who was once seen as a possible vote for climate legislation, was also eager to condemn the "Boxer-Kerry Energy Tax," as he characterized the bill in a statement: "These are fancy, complicated words for high-cost energy that sends jobs overseas looking for cheap energy. Instead, we should take practical steps to produce low-cost, clean, carbon-free energy and create jobs," he said.
In addition to slamming the Democratic proposal, the gathered Republicans also touted their own remarkably vague plan, which sets no limit on emissions. Instead, it calls for 100 new nuclear plants, the electrification of half the country's cars and trucks, expanded exploration offshore for American natural gas and oil, and doubled funding for energy research and development—with no mechanism to spur movement toward its broader goals.
Of course, if climate change isn't actually occurring, one wonders why the deniers in the crowd would want to sign onto a plan that addresses the issue. And even more curious is why Republicans with reasonable critiques of the climate bill would choose to share a stage—and a policy—with those who are still stuck in denial mode.