Sen. Lindsey Graham on the importance of passing climate legislation
Transcript of Sen. Lindsey Graham’s (R-S.C.) remarks today at the “Business Advocacy Day for Jobs, Climate & New Energy Leadership” in Washington D.C.
Thanks y’all. Thank you.
Hey everybody. It’s always good to be introduced by someone that can vote for you — just sounds better. Joe comes to every event I’ve ever had in South Carolina and he is on message with intellectual property and energy.
But to the South Carolina folks — thanks for coming up. Appreciate all the taxes you pay. Sorry about how we’re spending it. That’s applies to everybody by the way. I am here from the federal government and I’m here to help you. You’re supposed to laugh.
Well anyway, I don’t where we are going as a nation on a lot of issues. I know where we should be going, and that’s why we’re here right? We seem to be going at a snail’s pace on all the things that really matter. And finding common ground on hard big issues is not unknown to business, to families or to politicians. But eventually you have got to do something, because time is not on your side.
When it comes to social security and medicare reform, and the big entitlement programs, the baby boomers are retiring in droves. When I was born in 1955 there were 16 workers for every Social Security retiree. How many are there today? Three right? Two in 20 years. You know guys like me are the problem — I don’t have any kids. We have to come to grips with the fact that the demographic changes in America are real and Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid are $51 trillion underfunded when you add them all up. That’s not going to get solved just by arguing with each other.
We’ve got to find a pathway forward on entitlement reform. I just mention that as one issue on the economic side — long-term indebtedness that has to be addressed — only going to be solved when Democrats and Republicans come together we all say it, all 100 of us, we never seem to be able to accomplish much beyond saying it.
On the jobs side, we’re at 12 percent unemployment in South Carolina hardest hit that I can remember in my lifetime. Manufacturing in our state has really been hit hard. The textile industry that I grew up knowing and being around my whole life has really been hit. I can’t promise South Carolinians or people from Michigan or any other place that we can build a wall around America and that these jobs are not going to leave. But I can promise you there is a way to create jobs back here at home. One of the ways to create jobs back here at home is to become energy independent and clean up the environment. That is the best way.
This is so logical it is scary.
Maybe that’s the biggest flaw with it, it just makes too much sense. It sounds too good to be true.
We send $1 billion a day overseas to buy oil, sometimes from countries that do not like us very much. We are in the middle of two wars. The war on terror has many tentacles to it, and what to do and how to do it is a reasoned debate I suppose, but eventually the way to win this war is to try to get to root cause of problem. The root cause of the problem is that there is a small minority of people out there who have a way of doing business, a religious view, that doesn’t accept moderate Muslims, Jews, Christians, anybody else and they are a minority within the world’s population but they have to be confronted on a multi-level approach, sometimes military action, sometimes economic aid. But this country would be in a better position to deal with that problem and other problems if we could go to Middle East and say we’d like to help you with your problems but we don’t need your oil. That would really be a game changer in terms of our domestic national security concerns.
Now, I’m speaking the day after the president spoke in New Hampshire. I like the president. I’m having a hard time finding common ground but we’re trying. One of the issues that I think we have some common ground on is trying to come up with a rational energy independence policy married up with climate change policy that will clean up the air but make money doing it and create jobs in the process and looking at old problems anew. There was this idea floating around yesterday — don’t know how serious it is — that somehow it would be wise for Congress to do an energy bill only. I don’t think that’s wise.
The reason I don’t think that’s wise is that “it is a kick the can down the road approach.” It’s putting off to another Congress what really needs to be done comprehensively.
I don’t think you’ll ever have energy independence the way I want it until you start dealing with carbon pollution and pricing carbon. The two are connected in my view — very much connected. The money to be made in solving the carbon pollution problem can only happen when you price carbon in my view.
So if the approach is to try to pass some half-assed energy bill and say that is moving the ball down the road, forget it with me.
If my Democratic and Republican colleagues — but the Democratic leadership — brings an energy bill to the floor, and that’s the only way we’re going to do things, you better get ready to vote for an amendment that allows offshore drilling with revenue sharing. Because you’ll never become energy independent in my view unless we start exploring for resources that we own in America in an
aggressive and environmentally-sensitive way. So this idea that the energy bill makes us energy independent doesn’t cut it with me because the bill that came out committee doesn’t have any revenue sharing for state of South Carolina or any other state who would agree to offshore exploration. So you’re not going to be to pass this bill and tell me we’ve done anything about energy independence.
On nuclear power side, the nuclear title in this bill is woefully inadequate to create renaissance in nuclear power. 82 percent of power in France comes from where? Nuclear. Surely we can be as bold as the French. French have found a way to produce nuclear safely, efficiently. It is cleaning up their environment, it’s creating jobs. If you want a job renaissance in America then you need a renaissance in nuclear power, that’s where jobs are going to come from. Trust me, you cannot be serious about cleaning up the environment unless you are serious about nuclear power. You cannot replace coal-fired plants with wind and solar — it’s 15 percent of the grid at most. I’m a serious guy. Honest to God’s truth is that nuclear power has been put in the backseat in this country in an irrational way.
But nuclear is just one part of the solution Wind and solar does matter. We have 250 years of coal — we should use it, but it just should be cleaner
At the end of the day we need a comprehensive approach that would allow this country to jump start its economy and lead the world to a cleaner environment
Every day we wait in this nation China is going to eat our lunch. The Chinese don’t need 60 votes. I guess they just need 1 guys vote over there — and that guy’s voted.
He has decided to do two things: First, kind of play footsie with us on emissions control stuff but go like gangbusters when it comes to producing alternative energy. The solar and wind and battery-powered cars is an amazing thing to watch. And we’re stuck in neutral here.
So my message to you — you’re up here to advocate — advocate. Let the Congress know that you want a comprehensive approach to two serious problems. You don’t have to believe that Iowa is going to become beachfront property to want to clean up carbon. It is not about polar bears to me, it’s about jobs. I like the polar bears as much as anyone else but I want to create jobs.
If just a fraction of what is being predicted about global warming is true, that’s enough to motivate us all. But if worse thing you did — as Tony Blair would say — is you provided a cleaner environment, I don’t think you’d go down in history in a bad way.
The key in my view to those who believe we should address carbon pollution is to make sure that the energy initiatives that will get us there are done in a package.
If you break this apart you’ll have a watered down solution on both fronts.
Health care was big, it was controversial — I didn’t like the bill — but that doesn’t mean you can’t do other hard problems.
If the lesson from health care is let’s not do anything hard, then why don’t we all go home, which might be good for the country by the way.
But if we go home, China won’t.
The world is moving, pollution is growing, we’ve got a chance to get ahead and lead. If we wait too long and if we try to take half measures as the preferred route on all these hard problems they just get worse.
My challenge to you and to myself is to not let this moment pass. This is the best opportunity I’ve seen in my political lifetime for a Republican and Democrat to do something bold and meaningful.
Why did I get involved in this? I ask myself that a lot. I saw an opportunity. I’ve become convinced that carbon pollution is a bad thing, not a good thing, and it can be dealt with, and we can create jobs.
This is the time, this is the Congress, and this is the moment. So if we retreat and try to just go to the energy-only approach — which will never yield the legislative results that I want on energy independence — then we just made the problem worse.
What Congress is going to come up here and do all these hard things? Who are these people in the future? Because we constantly count on them. I don’t know who they are. I’ve yet to find them.
So I guess it falls to me and you.
So let’s do it.