Republican entrepreneur launches clean energy push

Republican entrepreneur launches clean energy push

A Republican entrepreneur is hoping to push his party toward more aggressively embracing clean energy.

Jay Faison’s ClearPath Foundation is launching a $1 million digital ad campaign to promote his clean energy message and opening a Washington office in order to play a more active role in promoting the industry among Republicans, Faison announced on Tuesday. 

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“Our mission is to make conservative clean energy a priority for the GOP,” he said at a National Press Club event. “I think we can do it. It might take some time, but I think we can do it.”

Faison said his group is designed to push back against the message from Democrats and environmentalists that Republicans can't be trusted on clean energy, and to make the case to the GOP that it can be the source of clean energy policy that is attractive to voters around the country. 

“For a long time it's been a very divided debate,” he said. “On the one side we’ve had windmills and sunshine from the left and drill, baby, drill on the right, and I thought there was a vacuum in the middle around a conservative clean energy agenda.”

Faison’s group has launched a super-PAC and raised $2 million with a goal of $5 million for the election cycle. He acknowledged that his group isn’t likely to be a big player in the presidential race.

 “I don’t think I’m a big enough dog in that fight to have that kind of an outcome," Faison said. ClearPath hasn’t spent on the GOP primary but plans to work to influence voters in House races this fall.  

The group will support Republicans who support Faison's clean energy goals. He sees a few lawmakers already he could support, those who  supported a GOP resolution noting the importance of tackling climate change, for instance.

ClearPath’s policy agenda centers on more traditional energy sources and opposes the Environmental Protection Agency's new pollution rules for power plants. And Faison said he is skeptical about the long-term costs of solar and wind power.

The group’s “four planks” include using cleaner-burning coal and natural gas, as well as expanding nuclear and hydroelectric power.

Faison voiced support Tuesday for a handful of bills he said further those goals: the stalled energy reform bill in the Senate, legislation to invest in carbon capture technology and another expanding nuclear power research. 

The key, he said, is to convince voters that Republicans can do more to advance clean energy, but he said Republicans themselves need to get to that point first.

“We are in a situation where we do have two different parties with different ideas,” he said. “I’m a pragmatist in that there has to be compromise. But you can’t have one side with all the other ideas and the other side not coming into the debate.”