Presidential candidates clash over climate, energy policies

By Jonathan H Harsch

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, March 15,2016 - Two of the four remaining GOP candidates for the presidency voiced different views on climate change in their final debate before Tuesday's crucial winner-take-all Republican primaries in Florida and Ohio.

In last week's Republican debate in Miami, CNN's Jake Tapper asked both Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Ohio Gov. John Kasich to answer a question from the Republican mayor of Miami, Tomás Regalado: “Will you as president acknowledge the reality of the scientific consensus about climate change and as president will you pledge to do something about it?”

Rubio acknowledged that “the climate is changing” but also said that “the climate has always been changing.” He argued that while he has “long supported mitigation efforts,” implementing the Obama administration's proposed Clean Power Plan or other measures to reduce carbon emissions “would be devastating for our economy.”

Rubio said “The fundamental question for a policy maker is, ‘Is the climate changing because of something we are doing, and if so, is there a law you can pass to fix it?'” Right now, he said, “there is no such thing” as a law to change the weather. “On the contrary, there are laws they want us to pass that would be devastating for our economy. . . (and) will do nothing for the environment.”

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Rubio charged that even if Congress passed laws to implement what he called the administration's “war on coal,” there would be no environmental benefit “because China is still going to be polluting, and India's still going to be polluting at historic levels. . . other countries like India and China are more than making up in carbon emissions for whatever we could possibly cut.” He added that the administration's climate initiatives wouldn't solve Miami's increasing coastal flooding problems because “sea levels would still rise.”

Kasich responded to Regalado by directly acknowledging that human activities “contribute to climate change.” In contrast to Rubio's warnings about economic devastation, Kasich insisted that “you can have a strong environmental policy at the same time that you have strong economic growth. They are not inconsistent with one another.” He also asserted that Ohio has “reduced emissions by 30 percent” while at the same time creating new jobs.

As the governor of a coal mining state, Kasich said “We want all the sources of energy. We want to dig coal, but we want to clean it when we burn it. We believe in natural gas, we believe in nuclear power. And you know what else I believe in? I happen to believe in solar energy, wind energy, efficiency. Renewables matter. . . it is important that we develop renewables,” he said.

Rubio's and Kasich's responses came just a day after the Democrats' two presidential contenders spelled out their own climate change policies last Wednesday, also in Miami.

Apparently in response to questions from Regalado and 20 other Florida mayors concerned about climate change, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders opened his remarks in the Democratic debate by saying that “here in Miami as much as any city in America, we know that we have got to combat climate change, transform our energy system, and leave this planet in a way that is healthy and habitable for our kids and our grandchildren.”

After warning that “climate change threatens the whole planet,” Sanders charged that fossil fuel interests “are destroying this planet through their emissions of carbon and creating the terrible climate change that we are seeing.”

Sanders said Republican politicians, like Donald Trump, oppose climate policies and call climate change “a hoax” because they are afraid of losing their “campaign funding from the Koch brothers and the fossil fuel industry” if they “stand up to the fossil fuel industry, and transform our energy system away from coal and oil and gas to energy efficiency and wind and solar and geothermal and other sustainable technologies.”

Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, said the country needs “to invest in resilience and mitigation while we are trying to cut emissions and make up for the fact that this is clearly man-made and man-aggravated.” The former secretary of state noted that “no state has more at stake in that than Florida.” She voiced her support for the administration's Clean Power Plan to limit coal power plant emissions, for the international Paris climate agreement, and for creating “more clean energy jobs.”

Clinton concluded: “We need to implement all of the president's executive actions (on climate) and quickly move to make a bridge from coal to natural gas to clean energy.”

Neither Texas Sen. Ted Cruz nor business magnate Donald Trump drew questions on climate in the GOP debate in Miami last week. But while campaigning in New Hampshire in January, Cruz dismissed climate change as “pseudoscientific theory.”

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Cruz said “If you are a big government politician, if you want more power, climate change is the perfect pseudoscientific theory. . . because it can never, ever, ever be disproven. If it gets hotter or colder, wetter or drier - the climate has always changed since the beginning of time. It will continue to change till the end of time.”

Last December, Cruz said that one of his first acts as president would be to withdraw from last year's international Paris agreement on curbing climate change. Rejecting the scientific consensus, Cruz announced in a Senate hearing last December that “According to the satellite data, there has been no significant global warming for the past 18 years.”

The 25 federal programs and regulations Cruz has earmarked for elimination include:

·         “Global Methane Initiative”

·         “Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program”

·         “Regulation of CO2 Emissions from Power Plants and all Sources”

·         “Regulation of Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Vehicles”

·         “Renewable Fuel Standard Federal Mandates”

Trump has been equally dismissive of scientific consensus. In his characteristically terse style, he tweeted in January 2014 that “This very expensive GLOBAL WARMING bullshit has got to stop. Our planet is freezing, record low temps.” In December 2013, he tweeted: “Global warming is a total, and very expensive, hoax!”

 

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