Expanding the use of natural gas and exporting it to allies and other countries is a central pillar to a climate agenda House Republicans unveiled Thursday that runs counter to the overwhelming advice from scientists.
Republicans said they would unveil six elements of their energy and climate plan in the next two months in greater detail.
There are six issues the group said it was focusing on, according to a summary of the agenda, which reads: “Unlock American Resources, American Innovation, Let America Build, Beat China and Russia, Conservation with a Purpose, and Build Resilient Communities.”
“If Republicans earn back the House majority in the fall, we will be ready to enact that strategy and ease the suffering of working Americans’ wallets,” Rep. Garret Graves, R-La., said.
The proposal comes on the heels of a series of warnings of climate peril, including in May, when the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere hit its highest mark in human history, surpassing 420 parts per million, according to data from the Mauna Loa observatory in Hawaii. By reaching that threshold, humans are halfway to doubling carbon dioxide levels since the Industrial Revolution and on course to easily surpass the 1.5 degrees Celsius in warming widely considered by climate scientists to be manageable rather than deleterious.
In August 2021, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world’s top group of climate scientists, said the world has steadily warmed since about 1750 because of human-caused carbon pollution and that “each of the last four decades has been successively warmer than any decade that preceded it since 1850.”
And in May of last year, the International Energy Agency, a nonpartisan international research organization, said investment in new fossil fuel production must stop by the end of 2021 if the world’s energy sector is going to zero-out its emissions by 2050.
“Net-zero means a huge decline in the use of fossil fuels,” the IEA said.
The GOP proposal focuses on steps the U.S. has taken in lowering its emissions since 2005, when carbon pollution from the country hit its highest point ever.
“We are among the most efficient producers of resources and goods in the world, and we should be supplying the world,” reads a summary document from Graves’ office. “From 2005-2020, the United States reduced emissions more than the next seven countries combined.”
While U.S. emissions remain lower than they were in 2005, they are still increasing, as are global emissions. The COVID-19 pandemic lowered greenhouse gas pollution in 2020.
The agenda endorses a bill to expand hydroelectricity, another to block the president from barring fossil fuel and mining development on federal land without congressional approval, and a third about critical minerals, which are used in modern hardware and machines, including electric vehicles.
A fourth bill, from Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., and Bruce Westerman, R-Ark., which the agenda listed as a climate and energy solution, would approve oil pipelines, greenlight oil and gas leasing on federal lands and in federal waters, and require the president to submit an “energy security” plan about oil and gas imports and to consider steps to increase domestic production of petroleum products to offset Russian imports.
In their agenda, Republicans blame Biden and the policies of his administration for the rise of gasoline prices and making the U.S. more dependent on foreign countries for oil by, among other steps, revoking the permit to build the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada.
“Americans don’t need leaders pointing fingers,” Graves said. “We need leadership that can provide a coherent energy strategy that lowers costs and provides cleaner, more secure energy to Americans and our allies around the world.”
Conservative groups praised the agenda, calling it a method to draw in a bloc of voters that has aligned with Democrats for years.
"For far too long, climate policy has been synonymous with mandates, regulations and subsidies,” said Drew Bond, president of C3 Solutions, a right-leaning climate group. “In light of skyrocketing gas prices and runaway inflation, Americans want solutions that will make environmental progress without hitting their pocketbooks.”
"Conservatives have real solutions to solve the climate challenge and make energy more affordable," Rich Powell, CEO of ClearPath Action, a right-leaning political action committee, said in a statement. "Here's a comprehensive plan that works – it reduces carbon emissions, creates jobs, eliminates dependence on foreign adversaries’ resources, and will be well-received in every single Congressional district in America according to our research."
ClearPath Action said it polled voters on elements of the agenda, as did other public opinion groups, including Echelon Insights, an opinion research and analytics firm.
"Our research shows that 84 percent of Americans think clean energy is an issue that Republicans in Congress should care about, but only 44 percent believe they do," said Kristen Soltis Anderson, founding partner of Echelon Insights. "There is clearly an appetite for Republicans to get out and talk to voters about their energy and climate solutions."
Opinion polls consistently show Democratic voters care more about addressing climate change than Republicans.
A survey by the Pew Research Center, conducted in January, found that 65 percent of people who identify as Democrats or lean toward voting for Democrats think “dealing with climate change“ should be a “top” priority for this Congress and the Biden administration. Forty-two percent of all U.S. adults and 11 percent of Republicans or Republican-leaning voters hold that view, Pew found.
Environmental groups criticized the outline as falling well short of what climate experts say is needed.
Over a dozen years ago, no one would have mistaken ‘Drill, Baby, Drill’ for serious climate policy,” Mitch Jones, managing director of policy for Food & Water Watch, said in a statement, harkening back to a campaign slogan of former Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin. “The fact that Republicans have not changed course in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence and cascading climate-fueled disasters speaks volumes.”
Jamal Raad, executive director of Evergreen Action, an environmental group, called the proposal a “greenwashing stunt.”