Guest essay by Eric Worrall
Are some House Republicans going soft on climate policy? The house defied President Trump on cutting wasteful R&D spending on renewables, R&D which cannot possibly deliver value for money. What else is happening behind the scenes?
What a Republican Climate-Change Agenda Might Look Like
By ALEX TREMBATH
February 13, 2020 6:30 AM
Republican leaders in Congress have started to hash out policies to address the problem. Here’s what they should focus on.
For the first time in a long time, Republicans seem engaged on climate change. As concern over the issue surges among younger Republicans and sweeping Democratic proposals demand an answer from the right, GOP lawmakers have come forward with bills of their own to address the problem. The top Republican in the House, Kevin McCarthy, recently sat down with Axios’s Amy Harder to outline the biggest goals of a Republican climate-change agenda, namely:
• Carbon capture, with a focus on natural solutions such as more trees and improved soil-management (what President Trump called the “trillion trees initiative” in his State of the Union Address);
• Clean-energy innovation; and
• Conservation and recycling, with a focus on plastic waste.
Start with innovation: Republicans should demonstrate a commitment to it beyond “basic science,” backing carbon capture, nuclear energy, renewables, and other clean-energy technologies. And, by all accounts, they appear ready to do just that. They have reliably rejected President Trump’s proposals to slash clean-energy RD&D (research, design, and development) funding from the budgets of the Department of Energy and other federal agencies. In just the past two years, they have co-sponsored, introduced, and/or helped pass policies to accelerate demonstration and deployment of nuclear-energy and carbon-capture technologies, including the Nuclear Energy Leadership Act (NELA), the USE IT Act, and the Section 45Q tax credit for carbon removal.
An agenda resembling what I’ve laid out here would boost American investments in technology and enterprise, increase American exports, improve American energy independence, support the development of a domestic clean-energy industry that can compete globally, support the domestic agriculture sector, and eliminate one of the biggest and most widely hated of all subsidies. Add it all together and you have not only a credible package of climate policies but a credible Republican one.
Obviously there is a lot of speculation in the article, so we can’t know for sure what is really happening in the heads of senior house republicans. But what a waste of resources the proposed policies would be.
- Carbon capture would make electricity far more expensive, and would potentially create terrifying new risks. Large concentrations of CO2 near inhabited areas are dangerous – a large natural CO2 release in Africa in 1986 killed most people and animals within 15 miles of the source, causing a loss of life comparable to the effects of a large nuclear explosion.
A release of this magnitude near a densely populated US city would be an unimaginable disaster. The sheer volume of CO2 which would have to be managed by a serious carbon capture scheme would create a substantial risk of a major accident.
Unbreathable concentrated CO2 is denser than air. After a large release the CO2 tends to hug the ground, displacing normal air and suffocating anyone unlucky enough to be caught in the cloud.
- Innovation won’t fix renewables, so innovation spending on renewables is a waste of money. Even 100% efficient renewables would not be a viable replacement for fossil fuel. They’re just too intermittent, require too much material to construct, and take up too much space. In 2014 a group of Google engineers discovered to their horror there is no viable path to 100% renewable energy.
- Conservation and recycling – why? I don’t think any of us have a problem with commercially viable recovery of material, funded by private companies. As a kid I used to make pocket money collecting soda cans, until the government messed up my pocket money business with taxpayer funded recycling bins. Money governments waste on taxpayer funded recycling schemes is money which cannot be spent on hospitals, police, roads or schools.
There is no route to pleasing everyone on this issue. If House Republicans openly make a break for bipartisan climate policies, their support in coal states and manufacturing centers will evaporate.
Worse, anything more than token climate action inevitably leads to economic hardship and job losses If there is one thing which will lose a politician votes, that thing is tanking the economy.
What about those young climate activist Republicans whose heads have been messed up by the education system? They exist, especially in universities. But the right thing to do is surely to try to help them get their heads straight, rather than promoting token climate policies in an effort to appease their global warming delusions.