In an interview on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” (Feb. 9) EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt told CNBC he does not believe carbon dioxide is a major contributor to climate change. Within minutes, scores of climate activists and groups drew their swords and attacked Mr. Pruitt.
We disagree with Mr. Pruitt, but we’re not like other groups. We’d prefer to meet with him, along with our network of conservative scientists, utility company executives, and financial analysts, to discuss a path forward that protects our American way of life.
The public policy debate over carbon dioxide emissions, climate change, and our energy future is the living definition of zero sum game theory. Sides have been chosen. Republicans and conservatives picked the fossil fuel industry. Democrats and progressives took renewable energy. Nearly everyone has been blinded by the effort to not give up a single inch of ground. And now, after fifteen years of that zero sum politics, Americanscan’t see the forest for the trees. We are so busy looking for places to fight each other that we ignore the need to work together.
Many on the right will not admit, publicly, that carbon dioxide emissions are the primary driver of rising global temperatures, simply because admitting that would mean their side would lose ground.
But, the science is clear: Graphs of atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and average global temperatures show a precise correlation. After centuries—thousands of years—of stability, both CO2 and temperatures began to climb, in lock step, with the advent of the Industrial Revolution. The University of Oklahoma, home to the South Central Climate Science Center, and part of the same state government Mr. Pruitt served as Attorney General, can demonstrate this fact with overwhelming evidence.
The game-theory reluctance to acknowledge the science is just one tree in the forest. Fortunately, it is one of very few blocking the view of leaders on the right. There are many more trees blocking the vision of progressives with which we need to deal.
James Pinkerton, writing at The American Conservative, covered this ground in greater depth and erudition than we will here. He points out the immovability of the current ‘all or nothing’ positions of right and left in our country, but he adeptly lifts the entire forest into view for everyone to see by stating, “We might start with the presumption that the real goal isn’t stopping fossil fuels; instead, the real goal is stopping atmospheric CO2. By this reckoning, hydrocarbons, by themselves, are not the problem: the problem, instead, is the unwanted by-product, carbon dioxide.”
According to the Department of Energy, renewable sources provide 11% of the United State’s energy today (not counting nuclear). Fossil fuels account for 81% of our energy and employ 9 million of our fellow citizens in relatively good paying jobs. Fossil fuel dependent energy companies represent $10 trillion of wealth. Progressives argue we can throw a switch and go completely renewable tomorrow. It simply isn’t true. It’s just one of their talking points used to motivate their followers.
We’ve said this before, many times: utility companies are not the enemy! Utility companies are agnostic on how they generate electricity. Public service commissions or legislators could order every electricity generator to immediately move to renewable energy. As long as the PUCs permitted the utilities to pass along their stranded costs to you and me in the form of drastically higher electric bills, utilities would be fine with itif it were possible. The problem is that it isn’t possible right now and it will take years…decades…to plan and build out new systems of generation.
Given the facts, shouldn’t we be moving full speed ahead on technology to capture, use, split or store carbon dioxide? Pinkerton reported, “More recently, on February 15, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, argued for a redoubled effort by our national laboratories to work on the hard science of carbon capture, with an eye toward new breakthroughs. As Smith put it, “Through its national labs, DOE has an exemplary track record on basic research.”
Carbon capture, use, and storage (CCUS) is critical globally. The United States has around 323 coal plants in operation. Worldwide, there are nearly eight thousand, with 1,200 new ones under construction. For anyone who believes carbon emissions from burning coal is a major contributor to climate change, which is every atmospheric science organization, then incenting American-made CCUS technology must be a major effort. Someone has to solve the coal – carbon dioxide issue; and America is the world’s leader in patents and innovation. If America closes its 323 coal-fired generation stations we won’t be able to develop the solution for the 8,000 and growing plants around the world.
But with all that, the major problem, in our estimation, isn’t Republican refusal to admit carbon dioxide is a primary driver of global warming. It is the left’s “all or nothing” position on nearly everything. Their “keep it in the ground” mantra is just one example. There are others:
Last November, the first-in-the-nation carbon tax proposal appeared on the State of Washington’s ballot. Progressive groups opposed and defeated it, despite their decade-long pursuit of carbon tax policy, because it was revenue neutral, a wonky way of saying that if approved, no funds would have flowed to their progressive coalition partners.
Just last week, in Arizona, ConservAmerica exerted leadership in a major settlement at the Arizona Corporation Commission with that state’s largest utility company. Progressives paint a pretty picture of every American home with rooftop solar panels as a component of how we can go 100% renewable in short time. The fact is, rooftop solar is only available to the top third of Americans–those wealthy enough to plunk down $15,000 or those with a credit score sufficient to buy or lease a system.
Several progressive groups fought our proposal which will enable the utility company to invest $45 million installing solar on the homes of those who otherwise couldn’t afford it. The program, AZ Sun II directs the investment into low to moderate income homes.
To reiterate, utility companies are not the enemy. In fact, if we really want to roll out more solar, equitably, and in a manner that makes our grid more efficient, we need utilities to partner in what we call Blue Collar Solar programs like AZ Sun II.
The progressive “keep it in the ground” movement is idealistic, but wrong. $10 trillion of wealth invested in the fossil fuel economy, nine millions jobs, and physics stand in their way. The path forward is not a zero sum game, and America cannot afford perpetual “all or nothing” battles if we’re to protect our environment, economy, and national security.
ConservAmerica’s Zero Regrets energy policy is a roadmap all Americans can follow. Zero Regrets removes taxes from zero emission energy sources and gives fossil fuel users incentives to progressively lower emissions. It protects the U.S. economy, tackles climate change, and spurs American innovation to sell to the rest of the world. And we can’t wait to discuss it with Mr. Pruitt.