February 14, 2019

Time to Wake Up: A Green New Deal

As-prepared for delivery

I came here this afternoon to give my customary weekly climate speech urging it is time to wake up here. I was planning to speak about a legal brief that a number of scientists, led by Robert Brulle and Naomi Oreskes, filed in the Ninth Circuit, detailing the long history of the oil industry knowing about climate change, doing its own research to confirm what it knows about climate change, telling the public something that they knew was false, and yet taking what they knew to be true and using it in their own internal planning. But something even better came up than that, so I come here to react to the?—?well, for starters, The Wall Street Journal editorial calling for a vote on the Green New Deal.

Now let’s just go back a bit as to what The Wall Street Journal editorial page has been up to for the last, say, 20 years on climate change.

The Wall Street Journal editorial page has been a mouthpiece for the fossil fuel industry’s climate denial. The messages of the fossil fuel industry are echoed and amplified through The Wall Street Journal editorial page. All the way up till 2011, if I recall correctly, they were simply denying that this was a problem. They constantly behave like what I would call the one-eyed accountant?—?looking only at the costs of responding to climate change, never the costs of climate change and I would actually to, on this subject, for those who may be interested, I would actually like to incorporate by reference two previous climate speeches I gave on this completely bogus effort that has been maintained by The Wall Street Journal editorial page.

The first was my speech of April 19, 2016, and then I went back at them again on July 24, 2018. They just have been making it up for a very very long time, and sure enough, up comes this latest in which just yesterday, February 12, they said: Let’s have a vote in Congress on the Green New Deal as soon as possible. Then they went on with a lot of their usual one-eyed accountant stuff, never looking at the costs of climate change, only looking at the costs of preventing those harms, and they concluded: 

‘‘Let’s not hesitate. Take the Green New Deal resolution and put it to a vote forthwith.’’

Along the way, they went into some of their usual canards about renewables, saying that ‘‘solar costs remain about 20 percent higher than natural gas while offshore wind is two-thirds more expensive’’ without subsidies?—?well, unless you look at the subsidy for fossil fuel, which of course they don’t, and the subsidy for fossil fuel has been quantified by the International Monetary Fund at $700 billion dollars per year?—$700 billion dollars per year in the United States—propping up the fossil fuel industry. By contrast, the little tiny tax adjustments that we get for solar and wind, which the fossil fuel industry is always pushing back against, are nothing. There is a monster of a subsidy in the energy space, and it is the fossil fuel subsidy, but will the dear old Wall Street Journal editorial page ever admit that? Not a chance.

I’d like to ask unanimous consent that this Wall Street Journal editorial by appended as an exhibit at the end of my remarks.

So, that came out in The Wall Street Journal that morning. Then Leader McConnell went out here to the Ohio Clock for his midday press conference, and guess what he said:

“I’ve noted with great interest the Green New Deal, and we’re going to be voting on that in the Senate. That’ll give everybody an opportunity to go on record and see how they feel about the Green New Deal.”

I’m in the habit of pointing out here how the string-pulling takes place and how the fossil fuel industry directs certain things and the mouthpieces say certain things and then we behave certain ways, but this may be the land speed record for response. The Wall Street Journal says it wants a congressional vote, and that very day the vote gets announced. I mean, it’s almost funny if the topic weren’t so serious.

The whole idea that this is the Republican response to climate change, it’s really classic. It is really classic. Since the Citizens United decision, which powered up the fossil fuel industry to have real bullying dominance in Congress?—?at least over the Republican Party?—?no Senator here today has been on any bill to meaningfully reduce carbon dioxide emissions. It is never a topic. Nobody wants to talk about it. It is like the unwelcome, embarrassing guest at the dinner party: Oh, my gosh. Climate change. No, we can’t possibly talk about that.

Never mind that NASA—which, by the way, RIP, Opportunity. The Opportunity has been driving around on the surface of Mars for 15 years, sending back information to us about that planet. NASA scientists built that thing, sent it to Mars, landed it safely on Mars, and has been driving it around for 15 years. My God, what a project that was. What a brilliant thing. So when NASA scientists say, ‘‘Oh, and by the way, climate change is serious. You ought to listen,’’ and we don’t, that behavior is hard to explain. When we are listening to the flacks of the fossil fuel industry and not the scientists of NASA—and, by the way, 13 or 14 Federal Agencies in the latest report that came out under the Trump administration—we are way past there being any serious factual or scientific dispute here. There are just political demands by the industry with the biggest conflict of interest ever that we can’t bring this up.

For pretty much 10 years, since Citizens United, nobody has brought up a serious piece of legislation to limit carbon dioxide emissions on the Republican side. Not one. Zero. Now, the majority leader is going to break this streak and bring up the first carbon-related bill. It is actually not a real bill. It is a resolution, but he is going to bring it up with the intention of voting against it. I kid you not. The majority leader has announced the intention of bringing up a resolution with the intention of voting against it. Who does that and why? Who had that brainstorm and where?

We will never understand this until we understand better how the anonymous dark money stuff flows around Washington. We need to clean that up. We need to pass the DISCLOSE Act. We need to make sure people know who is behind spending, who is behind advertising. We have to do all of that, but in the meantime, you do get these amazing moments in which The Wall Street Journal says—the editorial page, by the way. I think their correspondents, their reporters, are totally legitimate, and they do terrific work. It is the editorial page that is the problem child here.

So The Wall Street Journal editorial page says we need to have a vote on the Green New Deal. It takes less than a day for the majority leader to say we are going to have a vote on the Green New Deal, and he is calling up the first piece of climate legislation they have ever called up in the majority here, and they are calling it up to vote against it.

Isn’t it finally time to have a real conversation about this? Isn’t it finally time for there to be a Republican proposal? It has been nearly 10 years since Citizens United. I get it. The fossil fuel industry has enormous sway, but there comes a time when you even have to tell the biggest influencers in Congress that your day is over. It is time for us to treat with the facts and to work in a bipartisan fashion and to do what the people sent us here to do, which is to legislate.

 Where is the Republican proposal? Where is the Republican plan? There isn’t one. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Nihil. Nitchevo. They are going to call this up. They are going to call this up for a vote. I can hardly wait for this discussion. Bring it on, please.