Climate

Business Leaders And Republican Voters Support Obama’s Climate Plan. What Will GOP Candidates Do?

CREDIT: AP Photo/Jim Cole

Republican presidential candidate, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush speaks toy voters at the Derry Opera House, Tuesday, June 16, 2015, in Derry, N.H. Bush is campaigning in the nation's earliest presidential primary state.

A recent poll of Republican presidential primary voters in the early voting states of New Hampshire and South Carolina finds an unexpected result for the 17 candidates campaigning there. Most of these voters support regulating carbon pollution — even using President Obama’s Clean Power Plan (CPP).

In New Hampshire, half of likely Republican primary voters said they favored the EPA’s proposal “to set strict carbon dioxide limits on existing coal-fired power plants with a goal of reducing emissions significantly by the year 2030,” while 42 percent opposed. In South Carolina, 52 percent favored the proposal while 43 percent opposed it. Close to 60 percent of these voters in each state supported limiting carbon pollution.

The survey, commissioned by the NRDC Action Fund and the League of Conservation Voters, talked to 400 likely GOP primary voters in each state.

When asked about their state developing a plan “to reduce carbon pollution and increase the use of clean energy and energy efficiency” in order to meet federal government requirements, 75 percent of South Carolina GOP primary voters are in favor, 45 percent strongly so. In New Hampshire, 74 percent favor their state developing a plan, with 42 percent strongly favoring it. This is exactly what the EPA had in mind when they wrote the regulations — for states to develop their own plans.

For all the anti-climate rhetoric employed by GOP candidates looking for votes, only 20 percent of those in both states somewhat or strongly oppose this idea. Though support for the CPP drops after the poll’s respondents hear arguments from both sides, more than 40 percent in both states still agree with the arguments provided for the plan.

Majorities of these voters in both states wanted candidates who supported renewable energy, energy efficiency, and cutting oil company tax loopholes. And almost two-thirds did not want to weaken environmental laws.

Earlier this year, a poll found half of all Republicans nationwide supported government action to curb climate change.

Looking at all voters in swing states, a new PPP poll out Wednesday found that after hearing about the CPP, majorities of between 66 percent and 55 percent in Colorado, Florida, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia supported it. Higher majorities would favor candidates who supported the plan.

This follows a Hart Research poll in November 2014 which found majorities of over 60 percent supporting the CPP in Colorado, Iowa, Michigan, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania. Republicans in Colorado, Iowa, and North Carolina either favor or are evenly split on the plan.

While the Democratic candidates either support the plan or want to make it stronger, their Republican counterparts came out swinging.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker called it “the Costly Power Plan,” and later said it would be “a buzz saw to the nation’s economy.” Chris Christie, who pulled New Jersey out of the Northeast’s Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative when he became governor, said Obama’s plan was evidence of “the overregulation of the Obama administration.” Mike Huckabee said Obama’s “crusade against carbon” amounted to an “unconstitutional, executive power grab that will kill 1.4 million American jobs.”

Hillary Clinton, who said she would build upon the rule, warned that advocates would need to defend the rule “because Republican doubters and defeatists — including every Republican candidate for president — won’t offer any credible solution. The truth is, they don’t want one.”

Indeed, Ted Cruz upped the ante, saying that the “reckless policy” was a “lawless and radical attempt to destabilize the nation’s energy system,” and was “flatly unconstitutional.” He urged leaders “to stand up against this administration’s dangerous agenda of economic decline.”

He did not explain why he thought the President of the United States would ever want to destabilize the electric grid or try to push the country into economic decline. And though opponents will fight the rule in court and in Congress, it’s got a strong legal rationale.

Politico’s Mike Allen asked if the president was exaggerating the impacts of climate change, and Cruz said “there’s a different word than exaggerating that I might use.” He disputed the satellite data and climate models showed warming, accusing scientists of changing the data to meet their conclusions. “Enron used to do their books the same way.” To Cruz, climate change is the “perfect theory” for “any power-greedy politician” because it’s “always proven right.”

For Cruz to be right, there would have to be a massive, ongoing, and uniform conspiracy among all the world’s scientists, despite the multiple lines of evidence confirming the science of climate change. Such a conspiracy would be impossible — a legitimate scientist has a huge incentive to find evidence disproving the consensus. And a recent study found that climate models are actually more accurate than previously thought.

It’s not as clear whether the less-extreme Republican candidates will seek to make headway with their primary voters who support the Clean Power Plan by standing for regulating carbon pollution. But some may just refrain from attacking it.

“Given today’s politics, I think it’s more likely that more moderate candidates may simply hold some of their fire against the Clean Power Plan if they take this poll to heart,” said David Willett, LCV’s senior vice president for communications. “And if they are paying really close attention, they should be issuing their own plans for how to address climate change instead of just attacking.”

The schism between locals supporting climate action while their more conservative national “representatives” oppose it can also be seen in between the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and local chambers of commerce.

The national group, the U.S. Chamber, is well-funded by large businesses — including fossil fuel and industrial corporations that oppose climate action. The trade group’s response to the release of the final rule was predictable — in fact, the Chamber’s president and CEO Thomas J. Donohue issued his statement well before the actual rule was released that day. He blasted the EPA’s “attempt to impose an unprecedented takeover of our energy system” and promised to block it, with “litigation if necessary.”

Local chambers of commerce saw it differently.

The National Advisory Council of Chambers for Innovation and Clean Energy, a network of over 400 local chambers of commerce, issued a statement praising the economic opportunities that energy efficiency and renewable energy provide for local communities.

“We welcome their inclusion in the Clean Power Plan and strongly encourage state leaders to include energy efficiency and renewable energy as big elements of our state plans,” the statement said.

Those applauding the Clean Power Plan included chamber of commerce leaders from states such as Tennessee, Ohio, Arkansas, North Carolina, Utah, South Carolina, Missouri, Michigan, and Colorado.

It’s not just local business pushing for climate action. Last week 365 companies, from corporate giants like Staples, Gap, and Nestle to smaller companies like breweries all sent a letter to the nation’s governors urging them to back the Clean Power Plan. A group of CEOs managing $12 trillion called for a strong global climate deal.