Conservative Climate Caucus is a good step. But the key is to get Utah to pivot to sustainable energy.
A question that may determine whether this planet is able to continue to support human life in anything like the style to which we have become accustomed: Is the private sector is too fat, drunk and stupid to invent its way out of disastrous climate change?
John Curtis, a Republican member of Congress from Provo, says it isn’t.
To that end, Curtis Wednesday announced the creation of the Conservative Climate Caucus. It’s an assemblage of 50-some members of the House — all Republicans — who want to change the common perception of conservatives. In that, they are not only unwilling to do anything about a changing climate but also actively deny that any such animal even exists.
This is not a bipartisan showpiece. It’s a Republican-on-Republican press, first to convince the party that climate change is real, and then come up with solutions that conservatives will see as free-market ideas rather than government command and control.
That pivot and shoot play will have to be quick, as this drought-and-fire season in Utah demonstrates. Unless the kind of market-based solutions Curtis hopes for present themselves very soon indeed, the liberal Green New Deal will rapidly become the only realistic option.
If it isn’t already.
Curtis is echoing Sen. Mitt Romney, who likes to brush aside the question of whether climate change is a result of human activity by saying that we should hope it is, because then we can do something about it.
“Proposals to reduce emissions and be good stewards of the earth do not have to hurt the American economy – in fact they do the opposite,” Curtis said. “There is a way to lower global emissions without sacrificing American jobs and principles – and I believe Republicans are the ones that can and should be leading the charge.”
Curtis brought along to his new caucus the other three Utah members of the House, Blake Moore, Burgess Owens and Chris Stewart. Freshman Moore is not a climate denier, favoring as he does efforts to swallow up vast amounts of carbon by planting, literally, a trillion trees. Owens and Stewart have, so far, not been known to have anything useful to say on the subject.
(Sen. Mike Lee has been mostly mum on the matter since he embarrassed himself with a 2019 speech claiming that the solution to climate change is to have more babies.)
The stereotypical Republican view of a shift to greener energy is that it will crash the economy and reduce the world to Flintstones-level technology.
What they are really saying, of course, is the private sector is stupid. That American (or British or Swedish or German) Titans of Industry can’t look at what should be a technical, mechanical and supply chain problem and work out a solution that not only saves the planet but also makes whoever gets there first inconceivably rich.
Nope, gotta dance with the technology that brung us. Because the people who got rich drilling for oil and digging for coal (well, having other people drill for oil and dig for coal) might not be so rich if we change the way we do things. The way we did when we changed from bonfires to candles to whale oil to electricity.
Republicans tell us that big decisions should be left to the market because anything that smells of government central planning will be far too cumbersome to react to what the world wants and needs.
But the supposedly pro-business folks who run Utah are the ones stuck in a rut. They are all about forcing cities in California to build coal-shipping port facilities, building railroads to tote waxy crude petroleum from the Uintah Valley and willfully ignoring our state’s potential to be a global center for renewable energy such as solar, wind and geothermal, all in the service of doing things the way we’ve always done them.
Even Curtis remains, in my view, far too fossil-fuel-friendly to really face the problem.
Republican fear of the Green New Deal is blinding them to the fact that it stands to make someone very rich, in the same way that war boosts arms sales and the Apollo Program led to a boom in the aerospace industry.
Judging by the number of TV commercials for electric cars, some of the big boys are starting to get it. Or are being forced to, as ExxonMobil this month saw a slate of climate activist investors elected to its board of directors and Royal Dutch Shell was ordered by a court in The Hague to reduce its carbon emissions by 45% by 2030.
As they say at Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, admitting that you have a problem is the first step. John Curtis is there. But he needs to move pretty fast for that to matter.
George Pyle, opinion editor of The Salt Lake Tribune, draws most of his energy from whole wheat bagels and Earl Gray tea.