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McCarthy says reversing Biden natural gas barriers will lower energy costs, emissions and threats

Republicans make final push to pass signature law, looking to turn tables on Joe Biden and Democrats when it comes to clean energy.

Published: March 28, 2023 3:15pm

Updated: March 30, 2023 6:37am

Nearing the finish line on House Republicans' top legislative priority, Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy says reversing the Biden administration's restraints on natural gas will pay immediate dividends to American consumers by lowering energy, food and other bills bloated by inflation while lowering the world's carbon emissions and dependence on hostile energy suppliers in the long term.

"Just using American natural gas makes the world not only lower in emissions, but safer," McCarthy said in a wide-ranging interview for "The Commitment to Conservation," a Just the News special report sponsored by ClearPath, a conservative clean energy group. "Our natural gas is so much cleaner than Russian natural gas. And think about the difference where Europe got dependent upon Russia [for oil] and what Putin did with that money or what he's doing now in Ukraine — it all stems around energy policy."

In the interview, which airs Wednesday night on Real America's Voice network, McCarthy was joined by his top lieutenant on energy and climate issues, Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.). The two used the appearance to make a closing argument for passage of H.R. 1, also known as the Lower Energy Costs Act, ​​​​​​which is set for a House floor vote as early as Thursday.

"This is the most important bill," McCarthy said in explaining why his clean energy bill got the coveted H.R. 1 designation as the first legislation introduced in the new Congress in January. "Lower the energy costs. When you look to the future for environmental, our energy is so much cleaner, lower those global emissions. We watch what's happening in Europe, Ukraine and around the world with how energy is now incredibly geopolitical."  

Unlike prior GOP leaders, McCarthy has not shied away from the conversation on climate change that liberals dominated for nearly two decades with a policy push to eliminate fossil fuels, promote wind and solar power and electric vehicles as exemplified in the Green New Deal. 

But the California Republican used his Commitment with America agenda that swept Republicans into power last year to offer a decidedly different vision for reducing carbon emissions, relying much more on cleaner-burning natural gas and a new generation of nuclear power technology as a bridge to renewable energies, EVs and battery storage that have proven slower, more expensive and less reliable than Democrats promised after trillions in expenditures by the Obama and Biden administrations.

McCarthy said Democrats pursued a strategy that relied on technologies and electric grid updates that have not yet occurred and left leading-edge states like California more reliant on Russian and other foreign energy imports while sharply driving up energy costs by large sums, especially under Biden.

The Biden administration's regulatory regime restraining natural gas — from new standards for kitchen stoves to slowed permits — has harmed its climate agenda, Republicans and industry experts argue.

For instance, U.S. carbon emissions rose an estimated 7.8% since Biden took office, according to preliminary estimates. Some of that came from the resurgence of economic activity emerging from the pandemic, but carbon emissions even outstripped economic growth under Biden, experts noted.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Energy Information Administration says that under Biden natural gas demand in America will be going down for two straight years for the first time since 2006, as federal and blue-state regulators seek to regulate fossil fuels and appliances. That alarms Republicans, who note that two thirds of the U.S. carbon emissions reductions achieved in the last decade came from natural gas conversions of power plants.

Graves told Just the News that Biden's record of raising energy prices and carbon emissions makes no sense to every day Americans.

"We're not only failing on the affordability test and failing on the security tests, as the speaker said, but we're failing on the environmental test," he said.

The Republican alternative enshrined in H.R. 1 is to implement an all-of-the-above approach that lowers prices, lowers reliance on foreign energy sources, and lowers carbon emissions.

That includes reversing some of the new Biden administration restrictions on natural gas, streamlining a permitting process that delays energy projects often for years, unleashing energy innovation across all sources with a goal of lowering prices and carbon emissions.

Biden this week vowed to campaign against the GOP clean energy legislation, but McCarthy said he thinks Americans will call his bluff and the president will blink, like he did recently on legislation reversing permissive criminal justice reforms in Washington D.C.

"That's the same thing he said when we weren't gonna let D.C. decriminalize carjacking," McCarthy recalled. "And 173 Democrats joined. I think if the American public, those who are viewing and listening to you, join with us, call their members and call their senators, I think you might change his mind like he did last time." 

Graves, who helped draft the energy legislation, said Biden is likely to face a backlash arguing against legislation that will lower energy prices.

"This actually represents over a year of going across America and hearing directly from the American people and directly from the energy producers, directors and energy users," Graves said. "This reflects public sentiment. So if Democrats want to go out there and admit, 'Yes, we want to make energy prices higher, we want to push people into energy poverty,' they can do that. Those aren't the people that we represent."

The argument that improving energy production will also improve national security gets a hearty endorsement from Victoria Coates, Deputy National Security Advisor under former President Donald Trump. Vladimir Putin's aggression against Ukraine was one of many signs that adversaries are using access to energy sources or technologies as a geopolitical weapon, she said.

"In a way, we can write Vladimir Putin a thank you note, because with the war in Ukraine, he demonstrated a willingness to weaponize energy," she said. "The argument had been for years on the part of the Germans, for example, that the Nord Stream II pipeline was just fine from Russia to Western Europe because Putin needed to sell them oil or natural gas more than they needed to buy it. And for that reason, it would never be weaponized.

"Well, guess what? He weaponized it. And so I think that has everyone reevaluating their security posture." 

ClearPath President Rich Powell, who has advised many lawmakers and state officials on energy policy, said China's dominance in the battery technology needed for electric vehicles is another point of concern.

"We cannot allow ourselves to become dependent on that Chinese clean energy supply chain in the way that Europe allowed itself to become dependent on the Russian gas supply chain," Powell warned. "We've seen how disastrous that was for Europe and kind of brought on war this year. We can't let that happen."

Longtime Republican pollster John McLaughlin said McCarthy's approach not only has economic and security impact, it is good politics, as a new generation of young voters concerned about climate change have been frustrated by a lack of engagement on the issue by Republicans. H.R. 1, he said, changes that dynamic for the better for Republicans.

"If we're going to attract voters who are more moderate voters, who are more independent voters, who are younger voters who don't fit the Republican natural stereotype, we have to give them a choice that they can come to us because we are environmentally responsible," McLaughlin said.

"We do have ideas about reducing climate change, but we're going to do it on our own," he continued. "And President Trump did it in a way where we reduce the greenhouse gas emissions without signing a treaty that was going to penalize the taxpayers and the consumers in the United States. And I think that's the key to it." 

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