By Ben Adler
Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is not pleased about the historic joint announcement of planned carbon emission limits by the U.S. and China. He put out this statement Wednesday:
Our economy can’t take the President’s ideological War on Coal that will increase the squeeze on middle-class families and struggling miners. This unrealistic plan, that the President would dump on his successor, would ensure higher utility rates and far fewer jobs. The President said his policies were on the ballot, and the American people spoke up against them. It’s time for more listening, and less job-destroying red tape. Easing the burden already created by EPA regulations will continue to be a priority for me in the new Congress.
McConnell has frequently complained that reducing our emissions is pointless if other countries won’t do the same. Just last month, explaining why the EPA’s proposed power plant regulations are all pain and no gain, he said, “nobody else is going to do that. The Indians and Chinese are building coal plants.”
Yet now that we’ve gotten China, the world’s largest emitter, on board for climate action, McConnell is even whinier than usual. That, of course, is because he never really cared about whether China would or wouldn’t participate. He was just grasping for every argument against action, from denying the science all the way over to saying the problem is too big to solve. His real priority, as he readily admits, is protecting Kentucky’s coal industry.
Other Republicans are just as unhappy. House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio called the deal “the latest example of the president’s crusade against affordable, reliable energy that is already hurting jobs and squeezing middle-class families.” Leading climate change denier Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) called the agreement a “charade.”
Here are the four reasons why this deal bothers Republicans so much:
- Obama is throwing down the gauntlet. Republicans have been talking about forcing the president to drop the EPA’s proposed power plant regulations by attaching such a measure to a spending bill. Now Obama is saying in a big and public way that he’s not going to back down. Getting a global climate deal in Paris next December is what he hopes will be the crowning achievement of his second term. Since congressional Republicans are a bunch of entitled crybabies who think that winning control of Congress through gerrymandering, voter suppression, and the rural bias of the Senate negates Obama’s two massive popular presidential wins, this makes them really mad.
- It takes away the “But we can’t do anything because China won’t” argument. The majority of the American public accepts climate science, so Republicans have been softening their outright denial and taking an “I’m not a scientist” dodge. They know that over the long run the science argument is one they are losing. Now their backup excuse about China’s inaction is out the window too, and they’re left grasping at straws.
- It’s another death knell for the coal industry. Exporting coal to China is supposed to boost the U.S. coal industry as American demand falls. But now the Chinese have decided they would rather be able to see sky instead of epic smog, so they are going to move away from coal and toward renewables. The fact that China is saying it’s willing to start that shift while it is still much poorer than the U.S. also sends a statement that even the authoritarian Communist Party cares enough about its citizens’ health to do what Republicans are unwilling to.
- Republicans are becoming internationally isolated, and it makes them look foolish. The European Union has long been ahead of the U.S. in carbon regulation. With China now on board, other developing countries might follow suit. Of the 10 biggest world economies, Russia is now the most intransigent. Do Republicans want to align themselves with Vladimir Putin? (Well, actually …).
When something doesn’t go Republicans’ way, they get very angry. It’s fun to watch.
photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore