House energy and environment group another sign of GOP engagement

House energy and envioronment working group members Curbelo and Gibson

Congressmen Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) and Chris Gibson (R-NY), sponsors of last fall’s climate resolution, are among the Republicans who’ve joined the Energy, Innovation and Environmental Working Group in the House.

House energy and environment group another sign of GOP engagement

By D.R. Tucker

Republican presidential candidate and Ohio Governor John Kasich’s March 10 declaration that America can take action on human-caused climate change without destroying economic growth isn’t the only recent sign of the GOP’s consciousness of the consequences of a changing climate. On March 15, Politico reported on the formation of the House Republican Energy, Innovation and Environmental Working Group, which will pursue market-based solutions to America’s energy and ecological problems.

The twelve members of the group are Barbara Comstock of Virginia, Ryan Costello of Pennsylvania, Carlos Curbelo of Florida, Dave Reichert of Washington state, Kevin Yoder of Kansas, Joseph Heck of Nevada, Robert Dold and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, and Chris Gibson, Richard Hanna, Elise Stefanik and Tom Reed of New York.

“This is another encouraging sign that the GOP is seeing the huge upside potential of policies that encourage clean energy, efficiency, and climate mitigation,” says Jay Butera, Senior Congressional Liaison for Citizens Climate Lobby.

“I’m glad that several members of the Climate Solutions Caucus have joined this Republican working group,” Butera continues. “We hope they bring the working group’s ideas into the bipartisan conversation that can lead toward viable legislation.  The working group’s inclination toward market-based solutions will be a welcomed voice in the discussion. The geographic diversity of the working group membership shows that voter sentiment across America is shifting rapidly toward wanting Congress to address climate risk head on.”

The House Energy and Environment Working Group’s importance

“The formation of this working group is both wonderful and important,” noted Danny Richter, Legislative and Science Director for Citizens Climate Lobby. “Any time you have Republicans talking to each other about policies that reduce carbon emissions, you are building the political will we need to pass meaningful legislation. Each of the members of this working group deserves thanks for being a part of it, and encouragement to bring more of their Republican colleagues to the table.”

The formation of this working group is a de facto refutation not only of the argument that only presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are willing to address energy and climate issues, but also of the arguments advanced by House colleagues who question the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s studies of human-caused climate change. It is anticipated that this working group will push back against the criticisms NOAA has received from House colleagues — and will lay out a path for clean-energy solutions.

The sparse coverage of the formation of this working group is, unfortunately, another sign of the mainstream media’s retreat on climate; when the press fails to report on Republicans who recognize the need to act on climate and clean energy, it contributes to the public misconception that only one side of the political aisle takes this issue seriously. Republican voters have made clear their acceptance of climate science and the need to reduce carbon pollution; their concerns have been met with a response by the members of this working group, and their efforts merit media recognition.

The formation of this group should silence political-science deniers like New York magazine columnist Jonathan Chait, who recently lamented what he called “the mind-set of a party that remains fully in denial of all this — not just the science but the diplomatic and technological transformation now well under way.”

Chait was wrong on the anti-Keystone XL movement, and he’s wrong here as well. There are still some ditches of denial in the GOP — but there are also streams of solutions. If this working group gets things right, let’s hope Chait and other doubters of our democracy admit that they’re wrong.

D.R. Tucker
D.R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based freelance writer. He is a weekend contributor for the Washington Monthly, and has also written for the Washington Spectator, BradBlog.com, ClimateCrocks.com, Huffington Post, the Boston Herald, the Boston Globe Magazine, the Metrowest Daily News and the Concord Monitor.
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