House Republicans released a six-part energy and climate-change strategy they argue can bring surging gasoline prices under control without completely ignoring dangerously rising global temperatures.
However, climate analysts pointed out that the proposal sets no greenhouse gas emissions-reduction targets — and calls for increasing production of all types of energy, including the traditional fossil fuels, such as oil
and natural gas
that are the leading cause of global warming.
The plan, released Thursday, emerges from an “energy, climate and conservation task force” created last year by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican. It offers framing that political analysts advising the GOP think could be key to Republicans retaking a narrowly divided House in the 2022 midterm elections. Rep. Garret Graves, a Republican of oil state Louisiana, is chair of the 17-member task force.
The panel’s report contains six pillars: “Unlock America’s Resources,” “Beat China and Russia,” “Let America Build,” “Build Resilient Communities,” “American Innovation” and “Conservation with a Purpose.”
“The United States led the world in lowering emissions while lowering energy costs for American households,” the task force’s report reads. “We accomplished this by utilizing American resources made cheaper by innovation. Instead of punishing Americans with high prices, reducing consumer choice, or making it harder for Americans to innovate, we should be exporting this model of success to the rest of the world.
The U.S. has reduced emissions when compared to years earlier when coal was the primary source for powering the nation’s electricity grid and because methane leaks have been reduced. But overall rising energy use must become cleaner in order to sharply curb the emissions responsible for warming, and aggravating hurricanes, flooding, drought and more.
Read: Florida cyclone will bring dangerous flooding: How to prep for another above-normal hurricane year
Republicans historically argue that aggressive climate-change efforts will raise energy prices too fast for U.S. homes and businesses. They promote use of several types of energy, a mix that Democrats argue won’t get the U.S. to climate goals fast enough. Watchdog the International Energy Agency has also said that investment in expanded production of fossil fuels must stop.
The Republican strategy contains few new policy ideas and is meant instead to provide a high-level overview of how the party would address the challenges of record-high energy prices worsened by Russia’s war in Ukraine, although while also reducing global emissions.
Read: Biden decides on trip to Saudi Arabia as OPEC+ boosts oil production
AAA said the national average price for a gallon of gas was $4.76 in its latest update, another record-breaker. The average prices in roughly 20 states exceed that price, AAA data shows.
The timing of a Republican climate response isn’t insignificant.
The $5-per-gallon mark can be a psychological price point when drivers start following through on gas-conserving steps, like carpools, clustered chores and generally driving less, past surveys have said. And auto-industry data from Cars.com showed that with surging pump prices, this Memorial Day weekend brought an 11% rise in electric-vehicle
use from a year earlier.
The Republican strategy is consistent with McCarthy’s ambition to keep his party in the climate-change conversation, a topic that is particularly important to suburban, coastal and younger voters.
Republicans are largely betting that promoting private-sector innovation to curb emissions without directly targeting the fossil fuels that are the biggest source of greenhouse gases could reclaim closely contested districts in oil-and-gas-producing regions, several of which went to the Democrats in 2020.
“‘We recognize there’s an energy crisis and we recognize the causes of this energy crisis.’”
A recent survey of 1,000 registered voters, commissioned by the center-right Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions (CRES) and conducted by Public Opinion Strategies, revealed that 60% of voters polled continue to support the federal government taking more action to address climate change. That includes 37% of Republicans and 66% of independents, and is a higher number than an earlier poll.
“Our data show Republican and independent voters oppose heavy-handed policies typically backed by Democrats such as higher fossil-fuel taxes and the elimination of natural gas [which has largely replaced coal in powering electricity] from our energy mix,” CRES President Heather Reams said when the poll was released earlier this year.
“While the Biden administration continues to stand in the way of domestic production, Americans are left with high prices at the gas pump and supermarket. And because these commodities are being produced in less carbon-efficient nations, global emissions go up,” Reams said in response to the McCarthy task force release, referencing lack of transparency on emissions in China and elsewhere.
Related: Today’s kids will live through 3 times as many climate-change disasters as their grandparents: report
“One of the objectives here is being very clear to the American public that we recognize there’s an energy crisis and we recognize the causes of this energy crisis,” Rep. Graves told reporters.
Democrats have created their own climate task forces.
“I think that you’re going to see a significant sobering as a result of the election and I think that you’re gonna see some Democrats absolutely embracing components of our plan,” Graves added.
For instance, technology is evolving to capture and store emissions at the point of combustion, but is not yet commercially viable at scale. Major oil firms have invested in these efforts because it does not directly target demand for oil and gas. That demand is what many Democrats in Congress, as well as President Joe Biden and most environmental groups, believe is key to slow warming in time to meet a 50% emissions-reduction pledge by 2030 and net-zero emissions by 2050. Those target dates are in keeping with much of the developed world.
Zero-carbon technologies such as wind, solar
small modular nuclear reactors and green hydrogen — which is seen as a key fuel source for cargo trucks and vans — at least when it gets less expensive.
Read: Carbon capture, nuclear and hydrogen feature in most net-zero emissions plans and need greater investment: report
Republicans say they also want to streamline permitting to reduce obstacles to building clean energy and traditional energy infrastructure, including pipelines, liquified natural gas (LNG) terminals and mines to produce critical minerals that go into electric-vehicle
And: EVs will triple in just 3 years but adoption still too slow to hit big climate target
House Republicans say they plan to introduce new legislation in next Congress that corresponds to each of the six policy areas should the GOP take control of the chamber.