Shining a light on the president’s climate plan

The Subcommittee on Energy and Power today will hold an oversight hearing to examine federal agencies’ climate policies and activities. We invited 13 federal agencies to testify, but only two accepted. Despite our repeated outreach to the remaining federal agencies, the “most transparent administration in history” was only able to provide EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz as witnesses for today’s hearing. I find it hard to believe that of the more than one million civilian employees in these 13 agencies, and with over six weeks of lead time, the Obama administration could only identify two witnesses to testify about his number one priority - climate change.  Why doesn’t the administration want to explain to the public what it is doing?

While both EPA and DOE dedicate considerable resources to climate activities, there are many other federal agencies that receive substantial climate funding. The Congressional Research Service estimates that climate change funding for climate science, technology, international assistance, and adaptation has totaled approximately $77 billion between 2008 and 2013.

The goal of our oversight is to understand the scope, cost, and impacts of climate-related activities being carried out by the federal government. This is not a question of “why” the government is pursuing climate policy, but rather “what” it is doing and “how” that will meaningfully address supposed “climate risks,” and the impact of these activities on economic growth in America.

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What we do know of the president’s plan is that it would expand funding, create new mandates and programs, and impose more costly regulations on our economy. While many details of the plan remain vague, it appears this approach is likely to do more harm than good. For example, the president’s direction to finalize new regulations for power plants threatens to drive up electricity costs and restrict our access to affordable, reliable energy. Unilaterally imposing expensive and unachievable new rules on American energy consumers will undermine domestic manufacturing and outsource jobs overseas, but do little, if anything, to decrease global emissions or change global temperatures.  Should America be the only country in the world where a new coal-fired plant to produce electricity should not be built?

President Obama has made it clear that his number one priority is climate change and he is willing to take whatever action is necessary and spend as much as necessary to accomplish the actions he deems necessary. His actions are extreme, and a better policy would be a more balanced approach.

Instead of circumventing Congress, which is the voice of the people, he should instead partner with us to achieve a balanced approach that takes into consideration the importance of revitalizing our economy and creating jobs.  From this foundation, you can build and strengthen the infrastructure society depends upon. From economic strength, we can foster the research and innovation necessary to address energy needs of the future in America.

To encourage energy development and economic growth, we need to make sure the federal government does not continue to construct anti-economic and anti-energy impediments.  And to do this, we need more information about what the federal government is doing. That is what our hearing is all about.

Whitfield has represented Kentucky's 1st Congressional District since 1995. He sits on the Energy and Commerce Committee and is chairman of the Subcommittee on Energy and Power.

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