The West has suffered under a heat dome for much of the past week, with hundred-degree temperatures extending north into the Inland Northwest, as Spokane sweltered at 95 degrees on Friday and the Snake River valley hit the triple digits.
On Friday, the Inland Empire’s member of Congress, Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers, took occasion to chart America’s energy future. She planted wet kisses on the fossil fuels that are warming the earth. “For energy security and affordability, we must embrace a wide range of domestic energy resources including coal, oil, natural gas, hydropower and nuclear” came a release from the ranking Republican member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
She didn’t mention solar panels and wind turbines, although one of America’s largest wind farms, the Stateline project, sits atop hills on the Washington-Oregon border west of Walla Walla.
Indeed, McMorris Rodgers has taken Twitter shots at Democrats for promoting “a rushed transition to less reliable and more expensive solar and wind energy.
The summer of 2022 has seen a disconnect between Republican politicians of the South, Midwest and Mountain West, and the sweltering, drought-stricken states they represent in Washington, D.C.
Just one thing brings on a chill these days: McMorris Rodgers will chair the Energy and Commerce Committee should Republicans recapture control of the House.
Even with the carbon economy fueling their campaigns, one is moved to ask: What are these people thinking?
They are embracing coal at a time when it is being jettisoned by the country.
Our state’s last coal plant, at Centralia, is being phased out by agreement with the owner. The Colstrip generating station in Montana is on its last legs.
Coal plants are powering down across the country. Fewer than 270 coal-burning power plants remain in the U.S., with more than 600 having been shut so far in this century. Hawaii just shuttered its last coal-powered power on Thursday, as part of its plan to transition to hundred-percent renewable energy by 2045.
Global warming was hardly on the political radar screen back in the 2000 presidential campaign. With a deep pocket paying, young green activists showed up at candidates bearing signs that read: “What’s your plan?”
What would the candidates do to slow down or curb climate damage?
Only one person paid any attention, Republican Senator John McCain, R‑Arizona. When his campaign ended, McCain went back to Washington, D.C., dug into the subject and held a couple of hearings. He began to connect the earth’s warming with heat in his home state and the already-declining flow of the Colorado River.
McCain was just about the last Republican to seriously address the issue, an effort abruptly ended in the 2008 campaign.
He picked as his running mate Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, who decried cap-and-trade proposals, to limit emissions, as “cap-and-tax.” Republican audiences chanted “Drill, baby, drill” when the Arctic Refuge was mentioned.
The Republican Party seems to have adopted a strategy of permanent denial, spotlighted in resistance to the mid-summer Inflation Reduction Act, the first real climate action investment package ever authorized by Congress.
“It’s a gift to radical environmentalists and the rich liberal elites: It uses taxpayer dollars to subsidize electric vehicles while imposing even more taxes to raise the price of gas,” thundered Senator Ted Cruz, R‑Texas.
Houston has just experienced its hottest July on record.
Dallas-Fort Worth has endured 41 hundred degree-plus days so far in 2022, suffering a prolonged drought followed by sudden flooding.
Yet, here is Ted Cruz on Twitter last week: “Climate alarmists have a political ideology to promote, and facts can’t get in the way.” (A tip of the hoodie to Tyler Linfesty, the teenage “plaid shirt guy” who rolled his eyes behind Donald Trump at a 2018 rally in Billings, for “outing” the latest Cruz idiocy.)
Senator Jim Inhofe, R‑Oklahoma, has proclaimed global warming “a hoax” and once brought a snowball from outside to the Senate floor, ostensibly to demonstrate that the Earth was not warming. (Neil deGrasse Tyson subsequently created this memorable video explaining the difference between climate and weather: they aren’t the same thing.) Inhofe chimed in by describing the Inflation Reduction Act as “subsidizing the liberal coastal elites’ electric vehicle purchases.”
In our state, Trump-backed 3rd District U.S. House hopeful Joe Kent told a recent rally: “The current green agenda is a stalking horse to make America weak. All these renewable sources that we’re talking about, it’s a payday for the Chinese Communist Party, electric vehicles.”
He is, of course, wrong on multiple counts.
Climate damage is being felt here, notably in shrinking winter snowpacks and the melting of glaciers that keep our rivers flowing and dams producing during summer months… and the record forest and range fires such as the 230,000-acre Carleton Complex Fire in north-central Washington… and in the ocean acidification that threatens our shellfish industry.
Senator Maria Cantwell, D‑Washington, has witnessed China’s wind and solar development, urging that the United States deploy its resources to compete in the unfolding renewable energy economy of the twenty-first century. Instead, we have Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee sniping at Western Europe for moving too quickly to jettison its dependence on fossil fuels.
In a New York Times puff piece last week, our green Governor Jay Inslee spoke of Washington’s challenge to the carbon dioxide economy, saying: “There isn’t a single Republican in my state who has lifted a finger on climate change.”
Sure makes progress tougher.
Alas, the right wing in America is skilled in coordinating its disinformation.
Rupert Murdoch’s FNC has chimed in with sarcastic ridicule, much of it directed at California Governor Gavin Newsom for the Golden State’s decision to phase out gas-powered automobiles. Tucker Carlson depicts Western Europe as a civilization crumbling because it has chosen to phase out coal.
The Republicans’ Energy and Commerce website carries pictures of Representative McMorris Rodgers touring the Columbia Generating Station at Hanford, the one nuclear plant that the Washington Public Power Supply System managed to finish (original estimate, $400 million, final cost $3.2 billion) and witnessing fish ladders at Lower Granite Dam on the Snake River.
Defending the dams has become a Republican talking point ever since George W. Bush’s blooper reference to “the river on the Snake.”
As she holds forth about “the war on American energy,” is it too much to ask McMorris Rodgers to drive up the hills and witness the Stateline wind turbines? And learn of plans to expand the project?. Well, maybe it is since Trump took after wind turbines in his Pennsylvania rally speech Saturday night.
We hear a lot on how the future of our democracy is at stake in the 2022 mdi-term elections, and the upcoming 2024 presidential campaign.
Witnessing the rapidly changing climate, and rapidly accelerating impacts, the earth’s future hangs in the balance as well.
Cathy McMorris Rodgers is acutely attuned to power sources in the Republican Party. She ought to pay attention to what climate damage is doing to the region of our planet that she represents in Congress.