Energy & Environment

GOP lawmakers prepare for Glasgow trip

Rep. John Curtis (R-Utah) addresses reporters during a press conference on June 23, 2021 to introduce the Conservative Climate Caucus
Greg Nash

A group of Republican lawmakers is heading to a global climate summit — even as their party remains largely opposed to domestic actions aimed at fighting climate change. 

The group — which includes Republican Reps. John Curtis (Utah), Garret Graves (La.), David McKinley (W.Va.), Dan Crenshaw (Texas) and Mariannette Miller-Meeks (Iowa) — aims to win support and allies for what they bill as conservative solutions on climate change: a scaled-up program of next-generation nuclear plants, battery storage, investment into capturing and storing emissions from fossil fuels.

“I want to show the United States and the world that Republicans care enough” to be active participants on climate, Curtis said Thursday, noting that their failure to do so had “damaged our brand.”

“We have really good ideas. But when we’re not at the table — which, to be honest, we haven’t been there — we don’t get to advocate for our ideas.”

Graves, meanwhile, expressed skepticism about how effective the global summits are, noting that worldwide emissions have risen over time

“These efforts where countries like the United States and,  candidly, this administration that are only resulting in higher emissions globally … this just doesn’t make sense,” he said. 

At the conference, the lawmakers are expected to meet with foreign leaders, take outside meetings and look at technology, the lawmaker said. 

Asked how he thinks the GOP will be received, Graves quipped that it “depends on how much scotch these folks have had.” 

“Folks that are actually practitioners, people that have worked in the technology in the energy field, I think we will be very well received there,” he said. “Those people that have chosen this as more of an emotional issue, I think that’s where we’re going to be running into some challenges.”

Curtis , in launching a Conservative Climate Caucus this year, told The Hill at the time that his group won’t endorse particular policies but instead will give members information and new strategies for how to talk about climate. 

But on Thursday he was more specific, describing effective climate policy as a “three-legged stool.”

“And so much of the emphasis is one one leg: renewables, wind and solar,” he told The Hill. This one, he said, gets all the attention, “and we’re all in on [energy storage.]”

“But I’d say to my friends on the left: if you want to put all your eggs in that renewable basket, well, nobody yet has shown a path that says you can get there, especially by 2050,” he added.

For Curtis, that leaves two other legs: first, a rise in new advanced technologies — “advanced nuclear, hydrogen, even these things like fusion” — and efforts to clean up existing fossil fuel extraction without necessarily shutting it down.

Many of these policies are controversial — particularly the idea of cleaning up fossil fuel extraction, since most of its actual emissions come from when it’s burned or used, not when it’s taken out of the ground. 

This push comes at a time when Republican lawmakers have largely moved away from explicit climate change denial. But they have also largely rejected solutions aimed at limiting or restricting the burning of fossil fuels, which is the main driver of climate change

Instead, Curtis wants to see a massive, federally directed push in next-generation nuclear energy. “There are some exciting ideas out there,” he said, pointing to a Bill Gates-funded molten-salt nuclear plant that will soon provide power to Utahns, “but we’re still using the same nuclear technology my grandparents used.”

The third leg is one that Curtis acknowledged some Democrats didn’t like: carbon capture and storage, which he listed alongside a rise in natural gas consumption, as well as measures to reduce methane leakage, as necessary to cut short term emissions from fossil fuels. 

“If we can make it so that fossil fuels can be used in the mix without putting greenhouse gas emissions in the air — I think they’re important,” Curtis said.

Carbon capture and storage has also been met with some skepticism as certain projects have had a history of high costs and mechanical issues. 

Graves, however, touted tax incentives for carbon capture projects, and said he thinks the best way to combat climate change is to “scale up” technology based on countries’ assets. 

He said that the U.S.’s s natural gas reserves highlight a need for carbon capture and that we should also look to battery storage technology based on minerals found in the U.S.

And while Curtis said he supports some elements of Democrats’ $1.75 trillion dollar spending  package, “It’s just a bridge too far because of the social programs and social aspects of it,” he said. “I wish we could pull out into debate one by one, which climate provisions are in there, what does it cost and how far does it take us?”

Finally, he said, the United States needs to confront the fact that whatever progress is made on cutting emissions, “the Earth is warming, and it’s going to take years for that to change even if we stop tomorrow. So therefore, we have rising sea levels. Right? We’re going to have deserts where we have trees right now. What are we doing about it? We need to have a parallel path right now saying, ‘Look, this is this is how we deal with the fact that in seven years, we’re in a very bad place.’ ”


Tags Dan Crenshaw David McKinley Garret Graves UN Climate Summit

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