Inhofe: Climates no better for bill
April 20, 2010
Posted by Matt Dempsey Matt_Dempsey@epw.senate.gov
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Inhofe: Climate's no better for bill
By Jeanne Cummings
April 19, 2010 10:31 PM EDT
Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) has lived through four failed attempts to pass climate change legislation, and he's confident the emerging Senate debate will end much the same way.
In fact, Inhofe, a global warming skeptic, says a recent scandal in the scientific community has only emboldened the opposition. When that's combined with the deal making that typically defines such legislative efforts, he says, the scales tip decidedly his way.
"Their strategy was and is flawed because they've tried it before. It's called ‘divide and conquer,'" he said in an interview with POLITICO as part of "The Green Divide," a weeklong video series.
"Here's the problem. You might be able to break down some groups and get them to come over. But when you do that, you lose others."
To illustrate his point, Inhofe points to the protests from Democratic senators of a White House announcement to expand offshore drilling along portions of the Eastern seaboard and elsewhere. Similar enticements for the oil industry and other energy business interests are expected to be included in the Senate climate legislation.
Inhofe conceded that the entry of South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham as a co-sponsor of the bill being drafted with Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) could change the dynamics.
"He's a very attractive person. I like Lindsey Graham because we disagree on almost everything, but we are good friends and we laugh about it," Inhofe said.
"He might be able to bring someone, one or two people, in," Inhofe said. "But when you bring them in, you're going to lose five or six on the other side. So we're talking about net votes and ... I don't believe that he's going to be able to increase the net votes."
Inhofe's rise as a leader of the opposition was an evolution, he said.
In the 1990s, when global warming emerged as an international issue, he was inclined to believe there was evidence of it and that human activity was contributing to it.
But when he reviewed the costs to consumers for fixing the problem, he dug deeper into the science and soon aligned with skeptics who dispute the contention that Earth is warming.
In the ensuing years, however, the scientific data mounted and public opinion swung toward an acknowledgement of global warming. Some conservatives - including former President George W. Bush - shifted from denying the phenomenon and the fact that humans are contributing to it to calling for action to combat it.
But Inhofe stood firm, and he believes he was vindicated late last year when e-mails surfaced by some leading climate change scientists that, critics said, offered proof that scientists disputing global warming had been muzzled and its proponents had cooked the temperature books.
Climate change advocates have pushed back, saying that the e-mails did nothing to undermine voluminous research showing the Earth is warming and that humans, through industrial work and lifestyle choices, are adding to it.
Still, investigations were launched to determine how the e-mails were stolen from Britain's University of East Anglia and precisely what the scientists meant to say in their messages.
One highly disputed e-mail, for instance, includes a reference to a computing "trick." Global warming critics seized on it as hard evidence that the science is phony. But global warming advocates say it was merely an innocent - though provocative - word choice that referred only to a decision to switch to a well-established method of analyzing temperature.
While scientists will debate the import of the e-mails, the controversy provides opponents of global warming with a new argument to use against energy reform legislation. As Inhofe sees it, "climategate came, and it was somewhat redemptive."
If the science behind climate change isn't definitive, Inhofe argues, how can Congress impose reforms that could wind up being passed on to consumers by way of higher utility bills? "I started off as a believer until I realized what it was going to cost," he said.
Finally, Inhofe asserts that the energy reform effort will stumble because of the nation's heavy reliance on fossil fuels, which are both the dirtiest and the most abundant domestic sources of fuel.
"There's been a wake-up call in America, and people realize that we have to continue to generate electricity. There may be a day when it can be done all with renewables. I'm for renewables. I'm for geothermal. I'm for everything out there," he said.
"But if you were to do away with fossil fuels, let's say, next year, how would you generate enough electricity to run the machine called America? And the answer is, we couldn't."