Rep. Greg Walden: Green New Deal would cripple economy – Republicans have better way to fight climate change

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the lives of every American. More than 118,000 people have died in the U.S. due to the coronavirus and over 45 million Americans have filed for unemployment assistance. Communities have shut down entirely, and while officials are following public health guidelines to safely reopen, getting to a new normal will take time.

Shutting down our economy also significantly impacted emissions levels. The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates U.S. emissions could decline by more than 14 percent this year.

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And as the pandemic ravages health and economies worldwide, the International Energy Agency reports that global energy emissions may decline this year by almost 8 percent – the largest reduction ever and “twice as large as the combined total of all previous reductions since the end of World War II.”

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Still, even with the pandemic driving major economic devastation and emissions declines, global emissions barely met the United Nations’ target of cutting annual emissions by 7.6 percent. And, of course, developed countries like the United States are supposed to cut an even larger share, while the world allows China to continue to increase its emissions without consequence for the next decade.

Simply put, even though the arbitrary U.N. climate standards may have been temporarily met in theory, it took pushing the global economy to the brink of collapse and jeopardizing the livelihoods of millions of Americans to do so.

Unprecedented pandemics require a robust response, which is why Congress has passed the largest relief package in U.S. history to provide aid to American small business owners, workers, seniors and families.

For Republicans in Congress, the answer to addressing climate change and bringing our country back to prosperity is clear: American innovation.  

Unfortunately, some Democrats say COVID-19 is “a dress rehearsal for addressing the catastrophic impacts of climate change.” We agree, but it doesn’t have to be this way.

This financial devastation is a preview of Democrats’ Green New Deal that is supposed to give us a socialist, emission-free utopia. For Republicans in Congress, the answer to addressing climate change and bringing our country back to prosperity is clear: American innovation.

The Democrats have made clear the direction their party is headed. Their presumptive nominee for president, former Vice President Joe Biden, recently said in his climate platform that “our environment and our economy are completely and totally connected,” but added that, “the Green New Deal is a crucial framework for meeting the climate challenges we face.”

While we agree the U.S. needs to utilize clean energy, lower emissions, update infrastructure, and work with our allies for a cleaner world, we vehemently disagree that shutting down our economy is the way to do it.

It’s no coincidence that the same communities that have borne the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic are the ones that have suffered most because the economic devastation it has caused.

Democrats are creating a false choice between combatting climate change and having a prosperous economy. We can have both, and America can supply the innovative technologies that will reduce global emissions. With millions of Americans already losing their jobs, we must find a better way to leave our world better than we found it.

For example, carbon capture utilization and storage (CCUS) technologies promise to reduce emissions, create jobs and provide cleaner energy. The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 created tax credits for deploying CCUS infrastructure.

According to the Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy, the use of these credits could create 4.3 million to 6.1 million more jobs. Just recently the Internal Revenue Service released guidance to help implement these tax credits, and now American innovators have even more incentive to utilize these technologies.

Nuclear innovation also plays a role in not only reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but also in our national security, energy independence and economic growth. Nuclear energy continues to be a safe, emissions-free energy source with a small footprint.

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The Trump administration recently released a comprehensive nuclear energy strategy to help the United States regain its nuclear energy leadership around the world – to the benefit of clean energy and national security.

Unfortunately, Democrats have failed to take meaningful action to promote this vital energy source, even though it is essential for meeting emissions goals and maintaining America’s security.

We also must work to overcome the supply chain threats that have been underscored during the COVID-19 pandemic. The only way to maintain our edge in innovation and achieve our goals of a cleaner, healthier and safer world is by securing our energy and manufacturing.

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The good news is there are bipartisan bills that could be passed today to implement workable climate policies that will ensure a robust and prosperous economy.

As an Eagle Scout, I learned to “leave a campsite better than I found it,” and those words have stuck with me as a member of Congress. We have learned during these unprecedented times that the American people are resilient. We need policies that can bring relief and results – and shutting down our economy long-term cannot be one of them.

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