President Obama reminded Republicans Tuesday that cap-and-trade has GOP roots in a rare public reference to the embattled environmental policy.
“Cap-and-trade was originally proposed by conservatives and Republicans as a market-based solution to solving environmental problems,” Obama said during a fiery speech at a luncheon hosted by The Associated Press.
“The first president to talk about cap-and-trade was George H.W. Bush. Now you've got the other party essentially saying we shouldn’t even be thinking about environmental protection. ‘Let's gut the EPA.’ ”
Obama’s remarks were part of a broader argument that the Republican Party has moved to the right in recent years.
“I think it's important to remember that the positions I'm taking now on the budget and a host of other issues, if we had been having this discussion 20 years ago, or even 15 years ago, would have been considered squarely centrist positions,” Obama said. “What's changed is the center of the Republican Party.”
Tuesday’s comments marked a rare mention of cap-and-trade by the president, who has largely eliminated the phrase from speeches during the last two years.
Cap-and-trade is aimed at cutting carbon pollution from power plants and other sources by imposing an emissions cap and allowing trade-able pollution credits. A scaled-back version collapsed in the Senate in 2010.
With hopes of moving major climate legislation dashed — and as the issue became increasingly toxic in GOP circles — the president has focused on other energy issues such as improved vehicle fuel efficiency and expanded investments in renewables.
But reminding voters about cap-and-trade’s GOP roots could help Obama score political points over his presumptive GOP rival, Mitt Romney.
As Massachusetts governor, Romney initially supported the creation of a regional cap-and-trade system for power plants among Northeast and mid-Atlantic states, but backed away before the program launched. His successor, Gov. Deval Patrick (D), signed Massachusetts up for the ongoing Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.
Two decades ago, then-President George H.W Bush backed a cap-and-trade program targeting acid rain that was meant to reduce power plants' sulfur dioxide emissions. The measure overwhelmingly passed Congress as part of the 1990 amendments to the Clean Air Act.