‘This is very bad’: GOP hones climate attacks ahead of election
Republicans are stepping up their attacks on Democrats’ climate policy as the country races to midterm elections in less than 100 days.
In public comments and private conversations, Republican lawmakers and strategists appear to have agreed on a climate and energy message they will use ahead of the November election. They craft policies to reduce emissions as the cause of high gas prices, an engine of inflation, and a form of taxation on American workers.
“We have a crisis in this country, and it’s not the climate,” Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) told reporters last week. “It’s an energy crisis.”
President Joe Biden and the Democratic Party have spent the past week celebrating their historic climate deal, after Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York and Sen. Joe Manchin (DW.Va.) reached a agreement to spend $370 billion on climate and energy security measures through the “Cutting Inflation Act”. The measure could be passed in the coming days, although it has a series of hurdles to clear before it hits Biden’s desk.
Democrats hailed it as one of the biggest clean energy investments in US history. He could deliver on Biden’s promises to transform the energy sector while reducing the country’s greenhouse gas emissions over the next seven years.
Republicans see it as an opportunity to frame their opponents as reckless spenders as inflation rises.
Since the bill was introduced last week, Republicans and conservative media have attacked the ‘Cut Inflation Act’ the same way they have criticized other climate policies, saying it would increase taxes and drive up prices.
“The Democrats’ approach to tax reform means raising taxes on low- and middle-income Americans to fund their partisan Green New Deal,” Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) told reporters last week.
The bill is a slimmed down version of the “Build Back Better” package that Biden introduced early in his administration. This earlier legislation proposed spending about $550 billion on climate and energy programs.
The new package would offset $370 billion in climate and energy spending by closing a tax loophole for large corporations, raising the minimum tax rate to 15%. The new spending also includes billions of dollars for energy policy that favors the fossil fuel industry, including money to clean up methane emissions, funding for carbon capture and oil lease guarantees and gas on public lands.
Both sides see the bill as a political driver in November.
Kellyanne Conway, a former adviser to President Donald Trump, told E&E News that Democrats face a problem: voters aren’t looking at climate policy in isolation.
High inflation rates allow Republicans to talk about climate policy as a net negative in people’s lives. High gasoline prices are making life unaffordable for many people, she said.
“It’s going to be very difficult for the radical left to tell people that they now have to pay X, Y and Z because of climate change, as they try to afford everyday consumables like food and fuel,” he said. she declared.
Russia’s war in Ukraine is a key driver of high gas prices, along with global inflation, the rebound in energy demand from Covid-19 and investor hesitation in listed energy companies on the stock market to support a production boom.
The GOP message on gasoline comes as prices have been slowly falling for weeks. Yesterday’s average price was $4.16, down from its high of $5.02 on June 14. Energy experts say prices will likely rise as fall approaches.
Bernhardt: “Americans are worried”
GOP energy consultants are also attacking Biden’s plan to make the grid more dependent on renewable resources such as wind and solar.
“Americans are concerned about a few things right now,” David Bernhardt, Trump’s former interior secretary, said in an interview. “And certainly one of those things is high energy prices. I think it’s very bad to have policies where you suggest an alternative without that alternative being currently available. And so I think that’s what they’re struggling with, and they’re going to understand that, but that’s the consequence of heading in that direction.
Since the start of the year, GOP lawmakers have blamed energy price spikes on Biden’s executive order that killed the Keystone XL pipeline, which would have carried oil from Canada to U.S. refineries. The pipeline would not have been in service until next year, at the earliest.
The Republican Party has yet to approve a climate policy that would reduce emissions at a rate scientists believe is necessary to avoid some of the worst effects of climate change.
That hasn’t hurt Republican candidates in the election, however, since polls show most GOP voters rank climate near the bottom of their campaign priorities.
Even so, the party’s opposition to climate policies could put candidates at risk in tight races in swing states, according to some polls.
Polls show young voters, including some conservatives, increasingly want lawmakers to do more about the climate. Nearly half of Republicans between the ages of 18 and 29 want the government to do more to fight climate change, according to a Pew Research survey released last month.
As a result, Republicans in the House have crafted policies centered on planting more trees and investing in technological advancements to reduce emissions, as well as increase domestic oil and gas production, arguing that it has fewer emissions than fuels produced by other countries. The Republican Party has not offered ideas to reduce dependence on fossil fuels, the main driver of climate change.
It remains to be seen whether Democrats can pass the “Cutting Inflation Act.” But early polls show he has broad support, including among independents who could play a big role in a number of swing states this fall.
Americans support the climate provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act by a wide margin, 47% to 30%, according to a Yahoo News/YouGov survey of 1,600 adults conducted from July 28 to August 1. This gap increased — 61 percent to 14 percent — when respondents were told about other provisions, such as reduced prescription drug costs for Medicare beneficiaries.
Some provisions, such as imposing a methane levy on oil and gas companies, enjoy majority support. For example, 53% of voters overall support the methane levy, including 54% of independents, according to a POLITICO/Morning Consult poll released yesterday.
Some conservative media have portrayed the “Inflation Reduction Act” as a tax on Americans and an engine of inflation, even though the bill pledges to cut the deficit by $300 billion.
Over the past year, Fox News has long sympathized with Manchin, who previously blocked much of Biden’s climate policy. There are signs of a change now that West Virginia is supporting the climate and energy bill.
On Tuesday, Fox News anchor Harris Faulkner accused Manchin of disappointing people who saw him as an obstacle to Democrats’ climate efforts.
“What they see is a senator who they thought was moderate and who might push back some of the talk about forcing us into a green situation,” she said.
The interview turned hostile when Faulkner claimed the plan would tax Americans earning less than $400,000 a year, a common talking point used by Republicans.
“It’s a lie. It’s a pure and pure lie,” Manchin said.