This year, 2022, is set to be a pivotal one for the American experiment.
With President Biden’s agenda stalled, midterm elections approaching after potentially transformational redistricting, turmoil on the Russian-Ukrainian border, and the backdrop of a continuing pandemic, there are an enormous number of issues that Americans want Washington to prioritize.
For Republicans especially, 2022 holds many opportunities to demonstrate the alternative to the results of Biden’s first year in office marked by confusing messaging, inflation, and supply chain challenges.
Without a doubt, Republicans are preparing to demonstrate that not only can they govern better, but they will also work on the issues that Americans care about the most. This, of course, includes the economy, national security, public health, and something else: the environment. Even former President Trump, far from a champion of environmental protection, understood that all Americans want clean air and water for themselves and generations to come.
Republicans, at one time, were known as the party of environmental champions. Richard Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency, and George H.W. Bush signed crucial amendments to the Clean Air Act. Teddy Roosevelt and Ulysses S. Grant fathered the National Park Service. Over the past 30 years, Republicans haven’t lived up to that legacy, however, as they have opposed the Left’s strategy of climate alarmism and big-government environmental programs.
To be clear, Republicans should oppose the likes of the Green New Deal and other top-down initiatives. Wanting to protect our environment is not and should not be perceived as synonymous with growing the size of government. After all, the Left’s approach has failed, time and time again. Most recently, the Build Back Better Act bitterly divided the Democratic Party and resulted in absolutely no concrete climate action. Across the Atlantic, Germany is serving as the perfect example of the failure of a top-down, government-led approach.
Over the past few years, there has been a definite shift among Republicans on environmental issues.
More and more elected Republicans realize this. Over the past few years, there has been a definite shift among Republicans on environmental issues. From the Great American Outdoors Act in 2020 to the Growing Climate Solutions Act in 2021, Republican members of Congress have stepped up on environmental protection in a big way. While they may not always get the recognition that Democrats receive on their environmental work, Republicans like Reps. Bruce Westerman of Arkansas, Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington, John Curtis of Utah, and more have been leaders on this issue for years.
Rather than simply taking a page out of the Democrats’ playbook, Republicans take a different approach on the environment. Republicans prioritize harnessing the power of American ingenuity and using balanced government action to achieve positive outcomes for our planet. They support a mixed-energy approach, encouraging the use of renewables but also recognizing the realities of an energy transition. Republicans have also become champions of nature-based climate solutions, such as sustainable agricultural practices or even the simple act of planting trees, something 90% of Americans support.
Even more, Republicans are the ones championing nuclear energy. Clean and reliable, nuclear energy – especially small modular reactors – is a crucial building block for a clean energy future. According to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, nuclear power construction and lifetime carbon emissions are a quarter of that of solar power and a shocking 1/700 of coal. Importantly, coal-fired power plants can actually be retrofitted to become nuclear power plants, as is happening in Wyoming right now.
There’s no doubt in our minds that this trend will continue into 2022. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., planted a flag with his Energy Innovation Agenda last April. The Conservative Climate Caucus, formed by Curtis last year, is already the second-largest caucus in the House. With President Biden’s Build Back Better Act all but pronounced dead, Republicans have the perfect opportunity to carry their momentum into the new year and present the American people with a better way forward on climate change that doesn’t include clunky government initiatives and misuse of tax dollars.
There’s little doubt Republicans will retake the House in November, and with it, they can retake the environmental conversation in this country, making 2022 the year of conservative environmentalism.
Benji Backer is the founder and president of the American Conservation Coalition, the nation’s largest conservative environmental organization.