Cathy McMorris Rodgers
U.S. Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers speaking at the 2018 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. (Photo: Gage Skidmore, reproduced under a Creative Commons license)

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.

Cathy McMorris Rodgers
U.S. Con­gress­woman Cathy McMor­ris Rodgers of Wash­ing­ton speak­ing at the 2015 Con­ser­v­a­tive Polit­i­cal Action Con­fer­ence (CPAC) in Nation­al Har­bor, Mary­land. (Pho­to: Gage Skidmore)

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.

About the author

Joel Connelly is a Northwest Progressive Institute contributor who has reported on multiple presidential campaigns and from many national political conventions. During his career at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, he interviewed Presidents Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and George H.W. Bush. He has covered Canada from Trudeau to Trudeau, written about the fiscal meltdown of the nuclear energy obsessed WPPSS consortium (pronounced "Whoops") and public lands battles dating back to the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.

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