Thursday, October 15, 2015

Jim Webb: Views on Climate Change in the First Democratic Presidential Debate

Jim Webb is a former Republican whose record and policy positions on climate and energy are in line with the GOP. He supports more drilling including in the Arctic and more pipelines including the Keystone XL. He would like to expand the extraction of oil, gas and even coal and he wants to limit the EPA's authority to regulate emissions.

Webb seems to be the odd man out among the slate of Democrats vying for the presidential nomination. He is clearly far less interested in combating climate change than the other candidates: Martin O'Malley, Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, and Lincoln Chaffee.

Webb laid bare his policy position on climate change in his remarks early in the first Democratic presidential debate:
"Well, the — the question really is how are we going to solve energy problems here and in the global environment if you really want to address climate change?"
These are not just rhetorical talking points. While in the Senate he has shown that he is not an advocate of climate action. In 2008 Webb indicated that he does not support emissions reduction and he voted for an amendment to block the EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions, he also opposed the EPA's efforts to reign in toxic pollutants like mercury from power plants. He has proven to be a friend of the fossil fuel industry by voting against cutting oil subsidies and funding for clean energy.

In the debate the conservative Democrat boasted about his support for fossil fuels and indicated his resistance to government regulations:
"when I was in the Senate, I was an all-of-the-above energy voter. We introduced legislation to bring in alternate energy as well as nuclear power. I’m a strong proponent of nuclear power. It is safe, it is clean. And really, we are not going to solve climate change simply with the laws here."
Webb is a strong advocate of nuclear power who has opposed cap and trade legislation. In 2009 he sought to undermine the President when Obama went to Copenhagen in 2009 to negotiate an international climate accord. He incorrectly argued that the president does not have the authority to make an agreement.

Webb concluded by repeating the old conservative line that the US is fine, the onus is on other nations, like China and India, to do more to reign in pollution. Even though China is using less coal, reducing emissions, advancing aggressive INDC submissions, and preparing to launch the world's largest carbon market, he derides the historic agreement and ongoing climate cooperation between the Obama administration and China:
"We’ve done a good job in this country since 1970. If you look at China and India, they’re the greatest polluters in the world. Fifteen out of the 20 most polluted cities in the world are in one of those two countries. We need to solve this in a global way. It’s a global problem and I have been very strong on — on doing that. The — the agreements — the so-called agreements that we have had with China are illusory in terms of the immediate requirements of the — of the Chinese government itself...So let’s solve this problem in an international way, and then we really will have a — a way to address climate change."
Many are saying that Webb is out of step with the Democratic party. With policy positions that are essentially a mirror image of Republican presidential hopefuls, it is little wonder why Webb's candidacy has languished in obscurity and gained little traction.

See the climate positions of the other Democratic Presidential Candidates, Martin O'Malley, Bernie Sanders, Hillary ClintonLincoln Chaffee and Larry Lessig.

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