It wasn’t so long ago that a number of Republican senators actually thought happy thoughts about cap-and-trade or carbon pricing — before they got on board with the official GOP talking points and started referring to any climate policy as a “job-killing national energy tax.”
We were just kidding: Let’s have a flashback moment with some of the GOP’s most notable flip-floppers:
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska): Last month, she led an unsuccessful attempt to stop the EPA from controlling carbon emissions. But just two years ago, she cosponsored a cap-and-trade bill. Here’s what she was saying then:
I do support the cap-and-trade concept because I believe it offers the opportunity to reduce carbon, at the least cost to society. The signal about future prices sent to electric power-plant operators will hopefully stimulate spending on low- and zero-carbon renewable energy plants now.
Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.): He has proposed climate legislation that completely avoids any mention of carbon caps or pricing. Two years ago, he felt a little differently:
I’m impressed with the fact the Chicago Climate Exchange, maybe as a prelude to some type of cap-and-trade or carbon-pricing system in our country, has at least established a price for carbon.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.): He’s become the poster boy of GOP flip-floppers, bailing out on the comprehensive climate and energy legislation he created with Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and now lining up behind Lugar’s toothless bill. Three months ago, he said this:
I have no problem with trading as long as you don’t devastate the economy. This is what solved acid rain. Some people on my side say, “Just create incentives.” I say that’s opening up the Treasury to every group in the country. I want to set emission standards and let the best technology win.
Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.): Once he started running for the U.S. Senate, Brown picked up his party’s “cap-and-tax” mantra with gusto. But only two years ago, while supporting a version of a cap-and-trade bill in the Massachusetts legislature, he was of a different mind:
Reducing carbon dioxide emission in Massachusetts has long been a priority of mine. Passing this legislation is an important step … towards improving our environment.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.): With his recent swing to the right, McCain’s become one of the leaders of the GOP’s “cap-and-tax” chorus. Yes, this is the same guy who cosponsored the first cap-and-trade bills in the Senate in 2003, 2005, and 2007, and who said this during his run for the White House in 2008:
A cap-and-trade policy will send a signal that will be heard and welcomed all across the American economy. And the highest rewards will go to those who make the smartest, safest, most responsible choices.
Come to the dark side: Steve Benen, writing in Washington Monthly, digs deeper into the morphing of the GOP into carbon-cap naysayers:
Cap-and-trade — any version of it — has been deemed wholly unacceptable by Republicans this year. But given the intense opposition to the idea, it’s easy to forget that Republicans used to consider cap-and-trade a reasonable, market-based mechanism that was far preferable to command-and-control directives that the right found offensive.
Such a deal: Grist’s David Roberts points out that the Republican alternatives to comprehensive climate legislation would not only do little to control carbon emissions, but also would cost more:
The whole point of pricing carbon is that it pays for all the incentives. The Waxman-Markey bill and the Senate climate bill would both reduce the deficit; Republican alternatives (and Bingaman’s weak-ass energy bill) would increase it. Good climate policy is good fiscal policy.
Birds of a feather: If they fight a comprehensive climate and energy bill, expect Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to zero in on both Republicans and Democrats who last month voted for Murkowski’s resolution to reduce the EPA’s power to reduce carbon emissions. That should be Congress’ job, they pontificated. Brad Johnson at The Wonk Room has more on Reid’s response to “climate peacocks.”
If you drill it, he will come: One Republican congressman who will never be accused of flip-flopping on energy and climate change is Joe Barton of Texas. He’s scored a perfect 100 percent on the American Petroleum Institute’s Voter Guide. To honor Barton’s unceasing loyalty to fossil fuels, the National Wildlife Foundation has named him to the “Big Oil All Star Team” and even given him his very own baseball card.
For once, he’s not sorry.