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House Republicans Wisely Bet Their Future on a Climate and Energy Agenda

As soon as today, the House is expected to pass H.R. 1, the “Lower Energy Costs Act.” The bill is a significant marker in the climate debate and the GOP’s effort to define itself apart from the Orange Elephant in the Room (i.e. former President Donald Trump who weirdly branded himself the David Koresh of the Branch Davidian wing of the Republican Party at a Waco rally last week). H.R. 1 shows that Republicans not only view their climate and energy agenda as an area where they have a significant comparative advantage over Democrats, but as a priority issue set that gives them an opportunity to move forward and be, well, normal about addressing big issues. Expect House and Senate Republicans and GOP presidential contenders to advance these issues in the months and years ahead.  

>>>READ: Explainer: What is the Lower Energy Costs Act?

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s decision to use the title “H.R. 1” – a designation reserved for the Speaker to underscore the party’s signature agenda – itself shows the seriousness with which Republicans view their climate and energy agenda. More often than not, “H.R. 1” is a bill with real gravity and consequence. Consider a few contemporary examples of H.R. 1’s. 

In 1993, following the election of President Bill Clinton, House Democrats passed the “Family and Medical Leave Act.” In 1995, after the historic Republican Revolution the new GOP House passed the “Congressional Accountability Act” that forced Congress to live under the civil rights, health and labor laws that applied to other agencies. “No Child Left Behind” was the first bill passed by Congress in 2001 after the election of President George W. Bush. Then, in 2009, Congress passed the “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act” (aka the Recovery Act, or the Obama stimulus) after President Barack Obama took office. In 2017, Congress passed the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act” as the first major bill after Donald Trump’s election as president. 

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Not all H.R. 1’s are as serious and memorable. In 2021, Democrats passed the “For the People Act of 2021” a vacuous hodge-podge of campaign finance and voter registration reforms designed to convince voters that Democrats are more committed to helping democracy than Republicans. Voters were non-plussed and put Republicans back in charge in 2022. The “Lower Energy Costs Act” represents a return to form. 

Republicans view making energy more abundant and affordable through increasing American production, enacting permitting reform and easing access to critical minerals as a sound way to reduce inflation and strengthen our national and economic security all while lowering emissions. As the C3 Solutions “Free Economies are Clean Economies” report shows, countries that embrace the economic freedom policies that are the foundation of H.R. 1 are twice as clean as those that don’t. Democrats who are rehashing talking points about “Big Oil” while helping fill the coffers of dictators are on the wrong side of history, and political and physical science. What matters in the real world – and what defines the seriousness of a “climate plan” – are not pledges and targets but policies that reduce emissions. 

In support of H.R. 1, McCarthy said it was inexcusable that China “controls 90 percent of the world’s critical minerals” and that the Biden administration is obstructing American production when “Russian natural gas is 41 percent dirtier than American.”

>>>READ: All of the Above on Energy Requires the Critical Minerals Below

House Majority Leader Steve Scalise said to Larry Kudlow, “You’ve seen it from day one when he took the oath of office. He went after not all energy – American energy. [President Biden] killed the Keystone pipeline here in America, but greenlighted Putin’s pipeline in Europe, killed lease sales here in America, and then went to Putin, and then went to Saudi Arabia begging them to produce oil. What does he have against the cleanest place in the world to produce energy, the United States of America? You want to lower costs, you pass H.R. 1, the Lower Energy Costs Act.”

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers said Republicans were committed to ending energy poverty:

“Energy is foundational to everything. For centuries it has driven human progress and development. It is why America has done more to lift people out of poverty and raise the standard of living than anywhere else in the world. Today, over 3.7 billion people are living in energy poverty. That is half the world. They have a 10-year lower life expectancy – 35 percent fewer years of education – and many don’t have electricity at all … Our goal today is to celebrate how our abundant energy resources have unleashed prosperity and invited people from around the globe to come to America to achieve their hopes and dreams. We’ve accomplished this as a leader in reducing emissions and with the highest environmental and labor standards in the world.”

Politics is the art of the possible and House Republicans have wisely concluded they can flip the script on an issue set where Democrats have become the “Party of No,” especially regarding permitting reform, American production, nuclear energy and critical minerals. And as Nick Loris, VP of Public Policy at C3 Solutions writes, “all of the above” on energy requires the critical minerals below. Recent polling from our sister organization C3 Action shows that on these key issues Democrats are out of touch with not just the public at large but their own voters. Key findings: 

  • Most Republicans believe climate change is real and prefer candidates who propose climate solutions. Only 14 percent of Republicans believe climate change is not happening.
  • Progressive climate activists who oppose nuclear energy and fracking and demonize fossil fuels are out of step with Democrats: 63 percent of Democrats support an “all of the above” strategy; 68 percent of Democrats support nuclear energy; and 49 percent of Democrats support fracking while only 32 of Democrats oppose fracking.
  • Two-thirds of Republicans and Democrats support streamlining regulations to speed up the deployment of new clean energy technology while Republicans and Democrats prefer to finance clean energy research through spending offsets (49 percent) over borrowing (13 percent) or tax increases (9 percent).   

At a time when some in the GOP want to move backward and relitigate past elections, House Republicans have made a clear decision to move forward and offer a coherent and propositional climate and energy agenda. H.R. 1 may not move through the Senate, but its key provisions will do well in our country’s greater deliberative body – the American public. In the body politic, the debate about climate and energy policy is only beginning. 

The views and opinions expressed are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of C3.

Copyright © 2020 Conservative Coalition for Climate Solutions

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