After many hot years and a mountain of scientific data, I’m pleased to report that a handful of congressional Republicans are coming around on the issue of climate change, by which I mean that some of them will acknowledge that it’s a problem so they can propose deregulation as a potential solution.
But a few state Republicans have found a better tack: Addressing climate change via policies that focus on bread-and-butter conservative issues like jobs, economic development and deregulation. It’s a partisan lens, sure — but it just might work.
The Big Takeaway
There’s arguably no Republican who threads the climate-change needle better than Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, who coasted to re-election on a platform that did not include (or acknowledge) climate change. That’s despite his own years-long effort to make the Peach State a national leader in electric vehicle production, a goal he’s framed as an economic development push to “expand Georgia’s role as a world-renowned hub for global commerce.”
“I believe this is a unique moment of opportunity for our state and for the thousands upon thousands of hardworking Georgians who will benefit from great jobs and incredible innovative companies for generations to come,” Kemp said during his Jan. 12 inaugural address. “That’s why by the end of my second term as your governor, I intend for Georgia to be recognized as the electric mobility capital of America.”
The public proclamation followed two years of cultivating lucrative economic development projects to lay the groundwork for manufacturing, per the Georgia Recorder. New investments include manufacturing plants for electric vehicles and lithium-ion batteries, and a plan to expand charging stations with a mix of state and federal funding. The projects, 35 in all, are expected to create roughly 28,000 new jobs, according to estimates from the state.
It’s progress, but it’s far from perfection, opponents said. Most of those corporations were wooed by generous tax packages, including Rivian Automotive, which received $1.5 billion in state and local incentives for its $5 billion manufacturing plant. As a whole, the state’s focus on green-energy development is at odds with its environmental policies, which do little to address emissions or incentivize residents to actually drive electric vehicles.
State lawmakers are expected to address some of those issues this year with the help of a report compiled by members of a study committee who spent the legislative off-season touring manufacturing sites and interviewing industry experts. Among their recommendations: Devising a plan to offset fuel tax revenue, expanding charging infrastructure and implementing a pilot project to revamp EV fees based on mileage.
In theory, those proposals could make it more attractive for Georgians to switch to electric cars, though some officials said they expect that to happen regardless of legislative action.
“I think it may take a while to personally adopt it, but I do think it will eventually happen — especially if all of this electric vehicle related businesses, buttering everybody’s bread, so to speak, in terms of giving people jobs and providing all of this tax revenue, and the economic development,” said Public Service Commissioner Tim Echols. “It’s the same reason we drink Coca Cola and we don’t drink Pepsi, right?”
Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy on Friday unveiled a pair of similarly business-focused bills establishing carbon-management programs that would help companies offset greenhouse gas emissions. Dunleavy, a Republican, said the proposals could generate billions of dollars for Alaska while helping to combat climate change globally, the Alaska Beacon reported.
The first bill would directly target greenhouse gas emissions by creating a regulatory framework for companies to capture carbon dioxide and inject it underground before it can escape into the atmosphere. The second would allow companies to atone for their existing pollution by paying to preserve forested state land via the global market for carbon credits.
“In Alaska, we are blessed with the resources of today, but we’re also blessed with the resources of tomorrow,” he said in a statement. “This represents the means to fund services, lower the cost of living and improve our quality of life, to create wealth and billions of dollars in economic activity without taxing Alaskans.”
Environmental advocates gave the proposal a generally favorable review, noting that it could “score a win” for Dunleavy if he’s able to “convince skeptical [lawmakers] of the benefit of leaving certain forests un-clearcut, certain wetlands un-mined, etc.” Legislative Republicans said they would likely consider the bills through the lens of “what’s best for all Alaskans.” The forestry proposal will likely be considered first, though meetings had not been scheduled as of Monday.
From there, it’s a bit of a long road. Complex bills that survive the legislative process typically take at least two years to gain final approval, and it would likely take several more years for the state to collect income from either of the carbon management proposals. Officials said the carbon credit bill was simpler and thus likely to pass more quickly, but even that proposal is complicated by Alaska’s terrain, which leaves most forestland inaccessible by road. Surveying that territory — a necessary step to implementing the policy — could take years, according to state Sen. Cathy Giessel, a Republican from Anchorage.
“You’ll probably hear us very much threading a needle,” Giessel said of the upcoming legislative hearings. “We’re not wanting to discount or in any way vilify the (proposal). Of course, we’ll look at it. It’s just more complicated than it seems.”
Scratching the surface: (Colorado) Can new batteries help Aspen and Vail climate goals? (Commentary) … Bill seeks to prevent federal takeover of Indiana air pollution program … How did renewables fare during Winter Storm Elliott … (Louisiana) ‘The Rock’ residents once lived off the land. They blame a burn pit for turning it toxic. … (Nebraska) Proposal slammed to transfer $14 million from Environmental Trust to water fund … (Tennessee) ‘Composting’ birds: Avian flu hits West Tennessee farm and 267,000 birds are destroyed … In East Texas, a town fights to keep an oilfield waste dump from opening near wetlands and water wells … Virginia deer hunting bill has no ‘path forward,’ says committee chair … (Wisconsin) What’s in the air? Climate activists in Beloit decide to look for themselves
Caught Our Eye
The Rio Grande water crisis is years in the making, and it’s laid out today in heartbreaking detail in a pair of stories from Source New Mexico. The first summarizes the roots of the problem (humans and human-driven climate change), while the second examines the impacts of the drought on the region’s agriculture. The stories are the first in a grant-funded series describing life in the Upper Rio Grande, from Colorado to Texas.
From The Newsrooms
One Last Thing
The Nothing Phone (1) didn’t take off in the U.S., which the Nothing company hopes to rectify with the upcoming launch of the Nothing Phone (2). Best of luck, or something.
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