He’s the only Republican running for Senate who mentions climate change on his website. He used to support a carbon tax, and actually talks about conservative climate change solutions. Then, Jim Rubens signed the Koch brothers’ pledge not to do anything about it.
The pledge, from the Koch-backed organization Americans For Prosperity (AFP), requires signers to “oppose any legislation relating to climate change that includes a net increase in government revenue.” That rules out a carbon tax, a policy that would make huge carbon cuts, create jobs, raise incomes, and improve the health of Americans. It’s also one of the few policies Congress could use to seriously fight climate change.
An American University report, released in July, identified the Kochs’ influence and the AFP pledge as instrumental in stopping members of Congress from voting for climate action. That’s why the Obama administration has had to cut carbon using the EPA’s authority to regulate pollutants. And AFP is only one of at least “91 think tanks, advocacy groups, and industry associations, funded by 140 different foundations, that work to oppose action on climate change.”
It’s a major change for a candidate who not only believes in human-caused global warming, but who said voters use that belief “as a proxy for candidate credibility on other issues.” Deny climate change, he’s saying, and Republicans will lose elections.
In September, Rubens entered the race for the New Hampshire Republican Party’s nomination for U.S. Senate with a proposal for a revenue-neutral carbon tax, which would actually be acceptable under the pledge. He told the Concord Monitor in May that he had dropped that proposal because it was “dead on arrival.”
According to his campaign website, his plan is now to end federal energy subsidies, for both fossil fuels ($72 billion) and renewable energy ($39 billion). Rubens says it’s both these sets of subsidies that are preventing renewables from taking off. Ending these subsidies would result in over $100 billion in savings for the federal government, which might run afoul of the Koch’s requirement that climate action not make the government money, depending on how he and the Kochs look at it.
Rubens is running against Scott Brown, the former Senator from Massachusetts, for the Republican nomination. The winner faces Democrat Jeanne Shaheen in November.
Brown hedges on climate change, saying it’s a combination of “man-made and natural” causes. His energy plan doesn’t mention climate, and mostly focuses on expanding fossil fuels and “rein[ing] in the EPA’s regulatory authority.” He recently embarked on an “energy tour” of New Hampshire, where he complained about EPA regulations and advocated for the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. Meanwhile, New Hampshire officials are optimistic that their membership in the regional carbon trading program RGGI will be enough to meet the EPA’s carbon limits without any extra action.
Rubens himself made the best case for why legislators shouldn’t tie their hands on climate action in an interview with Stephen Lacey of Greentech Media just last week. “If candidates are forbidden from proposing bold solutions, we’re going to be confined to stuff that’s already been discussed and has failed to achieve political traction,” he said.