'Poisoning our communities and cooking our planet': Critics blast 'destructive' Republican climate agenda

'Poisoning our communities and cooking our planet': Critics blast 'destructive' Republican climate agenda
Matthew Rozsa.

Climate campaigners and progressive U.S. lawmakers reacted with disdain and derision Thursday to news that House Republicans would put forth a purported climate strategy that calls for increased fossil fuel production and sets no targets for reducing planet-heating greenhouse gas emissions.

Politico reports the "energy, climate, and conservation task force" created last year by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) will release a six-point strategy that recommends increasing all types of energy production with the goal of reducing record-high fuel and other energy costs, and with an eye on the 2022 midterm elections.

The plan—which would also boost gas exports while easing the permitting process for fossil fuel infrastructure—contains six elements: "Unlock America's Resources," "Beat China and Russia," "Let America Build," "Build Resilient Communities," "American Innovation," and "Conservation with a Purpose."

While the U.S. Chamber of Commerce welcomed the proposal, Jamal Raad, executive director at the climate advocacy group Evergreen Action, blasted it as "little more than a how-to guide for accelerating the climate crisis."

Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement that "this climate plan sounds like it was concocted by a comic book supervillain."

"Republicans have managed to devise a scheme that would make climate change even more destructive," Hartl added. "It's an oil industry wish list that would throw future generations under the bus to make a buck."

The advocacy group Food & Water Action called the plan a "climate farce" and a "pro-fossil fuels road map to climate chaos."

"Over a dozen years ago, no one would have mistaken 'Drill, Baby, Drill' for serious climate policy," the group's managing director of policy Mitch Jones said in a statement referring to 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin's infamous campaign slogan.

"The fact that Republicans have not changed course in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence and cascading climate-fueled disasters speaks volumes," Jones continued. "What's needed now are serious plans that meet the monumental scale of the crisis, and also deliver the economic benefits and job opportunities that are so desperately needed."

"We need to elect climate champions this year who will prioritize shifting off of dirty fossil fuels that poison communities and enrich corporate polluters," he added.

Those corporate polluters contribute tremendous amounts of campaign cash to congressional lawmakers and candidates. The House Oversight Committee noted last October that just four fossil fuel giants—BP, Chevron, ExxonMobil, and Shell—plus the industry group American Petroleum Institute spent a combined $452.6 million lobbying the federal government since 2011.

According to the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, McCarthy has received nearly $2.1 in career oil and gas industry contributions. GOP task force chair Rep. Garret Graves—whose Louisiana district is one of the most fossil fuel infrastructure-intense in the nation and is experiencing climate-driven sea level rise and increased illness—has taken nearly $700,000 in Big Oil donations.

With $414,824 in campaign contributions during the 2022 election cycle alone, McCarthy is the House's leading beneficiary of oil and gas contributions, according to data from the watchdog group OpenSecrets.

In return, the government lavishes the fossil fuel industry with around $20 billion in annual subsidies, which Joe Biden promised to end while campaigning for president.

However, doing so would require congressional approval, and even members of his own party—notably Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Congress' number one recipient of fossil fuel contributions during the 2022 election cycle and the seven-figure beneficiary of a family coal business—are fighting to protect subsidies.

"Lining the pockets of fossil fuel companies is not a long-term fix; it puts American families' health and the future of the planet at risk," tweeted Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.). "The cost of climate-fueled extreme weather events in the most recent year for which we have data was $100 billion."

"The solution is blindingly obvious: clean energy," he added. "The more we are able to shift to clean energy, the better it will be for our health, and the less dependent we will be on fossil fuels, and the less susceptible our economy and American families will be to oil price swings."

Raad of Evergreen Action asserted that "real and effective climate solutions are at our fingertips, but McCarthy and his caucus are so beholden to their donors in the fossil fuel industry that they'd rather double down on the technologies of the past that are poisoning our communities and cooking our planet."

"Every election year, Republicans in Congress try to greenwash their records to mislead voters who overwhelmingly support common-sense climate action—and every time they seize power, they stand in the way of real solutions and subsidize the industries that are fueling this crisis," he added. "This stunt is a not-even-thinly veiled attempt to bullshit the press and the public. It's time to stop falling for it."

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