Climate

Rubio: Let’s Be Number One In Renewables

CREDIT: AP Photo/Chris O'Meara

Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. speaks during a campaign stop, Monday, Jan. 11, 2016, in Sarasota, Fla.

At an event in New Hampshire Tuesday evening, Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio appeared to take a different tack from the usual party line when asked about how to make more clean energy jobs in America.

“Well first, I would say to you that I want us to lead the world in everything,” he said. “Let’s be number one in wind, and number one in solar, and number one in biofuels, and number one in renewables, number one in energy efficiency. Let’s lead in all of these things.”

If Rubio wants the United States to lead the world in renewable energy, how does he propose to get us there?

“I’m not going to interfere in the marketplace,” he said at the New Hampshire event. “The market’s going to decide which one of these we do more of than others.”

Indeed, his energy plan focuses on promoting fossil fuel extraction throughout the country and rolling back key components of President Obama’s environmental legacy. Rubio described how his energy plan treats every company the same, doing away with “carve-outs” and giving every business a flat tax rate of 25 percent. The plan does ignore renewable energy and does not address climate change or carbon emissions.

“The United States can — and should — lead the world in renewable energy, but Rubio’s plan isn’t going to get us there,” NextGen Climate Action spokeswoman spokesperson Suzanne Henkels told ThinkProgress. “Rubio’s record, and his plans, would double down on subsidies that help one industry: fossil fuels.”

Rubio was one of the first politicians to attempt the “I’m not a scientist” tactic to deny the reality of mainstream climate science. He has since moved to more outright denial.

“I do not believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it,” he said after telling the world he could be president. “I do not believe that the laws that they propose we pass will do anything about it, except it will destroy our economy.”

The Catholic senator, who ten years ago was “bullish” on renewable energy, said last year that he would ignore Pope Francis on climate change and recently called the historic global climate agreement in Paris “an unfunny joke.”

“All I’m saying is, there’s no way we’re not going to do oil and natural gas,” Rubio said at the campaign event. “God has blessed this nation with these resources. It would be reckless and irresponsible not to utilize all of our energy resources.”

The fossil fuel industry has come to dominate the energy sector over many decades, enjoying billions in tax breaks. The renewable energy industry is much younger and smaller, and has begun to thrive despite periodic uncertainty surrounding the renewal of its own tax credits.

“It’s exciting that Republican candidates are finally recognizing the incredible growth of our clean energy economy and the broad bipartisan support for clean energy over fossil fuels just weeks before a big election, but it is unfortunate that people like Senator Rubio have failed to act when given repeated opportunities to do so,” said Khalid Pitts, political director at the Sierra Club.

“Wind and solar are creating jobs nationwide — especially in Republican districts, where the vast majority of installed wind capacity resides,” Pitts said in a statement to ThinkProgress. “Sadly, Marco Rubio voted to stop this progress when he voted against job-creating investments in clean energy, a position that lets the rest of the world leapfrog us in the push to lead in one of the fastest-growing sectors of the economy in the world.”

Rubio has voted twice against legislation to extend energy efficiency and clean energy tax incentives aiming to encourage businesses to hire more workers. He missed votes to implement a renewable energy standard and support installation of solar panels on 10 million roofs by 2025.

“I want us to have a true all-of-the-above strategy, the most diverse energy portfolio possible, and one does not have to come at the exclusion of another,” Rubio said Tuesday night.

Often, Republican politicians extol the virtues of fossil fuels, and many ignore or ridicule renewable energy options. “You are going to find people in this town who say they are for ‘all of the above’ energy, but they’re really for none of the above and all of the below,” Sen. Chuck Grassley recently told a group of conservatives on Capitol Hill.

Rubio received the surprise endorsement of Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), a proud climate denier and foe of many environmental initiatives. Inhofe took the time last year to encourage the Obama administration to embrace nuclear energy in an op-ed, yet the only mention of renewable energy he spared was to criticize solar and wind technology.

But if it’s jobs Rubio cares about, he’d do better to focus on the growing (and labor-intensive) solar industry, which on its own last year added more jobs than the oil and gas extraction industry.