Energy & Environment at The Hill

Voters have demanded bold leadership and common sense, not partisan gridlock

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This November tens of millions of voters responded to the rockiest political landscape in memory in the most rational way possible — by splitting their tickets.

The much-predicted “Blue Wave” never materialized, as Republicans outperformed the polls, gained a number of seats in the House and so far look to be holding their ground in the Senate. And while Biden’s transition team powers forward, they must be aware that much of America seems unimpressed by the policies and rhetoric of the far left wing of his party.

Pundits quickly weighed in that a new administration would be forced to compromise with a divided Congress. That appraisal certainly makes sense, but I don’t think it fully captures the voters’ sentiment. Yes, people clearly rejected the extreme wings of both parties; but that doesn’t necessarily mean they voted for listless half measures and perpetual gridlock.

Instead, I believe they voted for commonsense solutions — which is not the same thing as compromise. Americans recognize that we face very real and urgent problems, and I believe they still want their leaders to act boldly and decisively. But they want pragmatic approaches and action, not ideological adventures to nowhere.

Democrats failed to grasp this. While polling shows that voters across the political spectrum care about climate change, including a majority of self-identified conservatives, Republicans balk at the heavy-handed government mandates put forth in the so-called Green New Deal. In the waning days of the campaign, swing voters in key areas felt that workers in traditional energy industries were unfairly under attack and that — at least for the time being — fossil fuels will need to make up an important, but diminishing part of our energy mix.

Now more than ever America needs its Republican leaders to resist the temptation to simply be a roadblock to radical leftwing proposals, and instead put forth their own commonsense clean energy proposals that won’t pit the economy against the environment.

Republicans in Congress must seize on this chance to bring forth market-based, conservative policies that, unlike the Green New Deal, will not bankrupt our future. Party leaders should continue efforts to support clean energy industries and implement policies that continue investing in tomorrow’s technologies today. The jobs and economic data don’t lie — the clean energy sector has been an economic engine that has allowed our nation to depend less on foreign oil, while also mitigating the impact of climate change in our communities.

And they need not wait until the new Congress to get started.

There is an immediate opportunity to pass meaningful legislation in the lame-duck session with the American Energy Innovation Act (AEIA), which is a compilation of more than 50 energy-related measures considered and individually reported by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee last year. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) is determined to get the AEIA passed this year in the final days of her chairmanship, and it would be a lasting legacy.

The legislation has strong bipartisan support as it consists of measures sponsored or co-sponsored by more than 60 senators. It focuses on American leadership in the research and development of innovative energy technologies, such as renewables, energy storage, and carbon capture, as well strengthening our national security in key areas and facilitating workforce development.

The AEIA is not a silver bullet for solving climate change, but it taps into the best America has to offer — its researchers, scientists, and entrepreneurs — and is the lowest hanging fruit available that can make a real difference in reducing emissions. At the same time, it will serve as an immediate economic stimulus as every job created directly from public R&D investment creates an average of 2.7 additional jobs from indirect impacts.

Longer term, bipartisan solutions should also leverage the ingenuity and hard work of American farmers, foresters, ranchers and fishermen, who have been America’s environmental stewards for generations. One legislative example is the Growing Climate Solutions Act (GCSA), which would provide those who live and work on the land with planning, technical assistance, and third-party certification to access carbon credit marketplaces. It would provide voluntary incentives for practices that capture carbon, reduce emissions, and improve soil health.

Voters want leadership in Congress that understands that economic growth and environmental protection are not mutually exclusive objectives. Commonsense solutions may not fit into the traditional partisan framework, but lawmakers who can work across the aisle and implement them will be rewarded at the ballot box in future elections.

Heather Reams is Executive Director for Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions (CRES), a 501(c)(4) non-profit organization founded in 2013 to engage Republican policymakers and the public about responsible, conservative solutions to address our nation’s energy, economic, and environmental security while increasing America’s competitive edge.

Tags clean energy Climate change emissions Green New Deal Lisa Murkowski

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