As expected, some Dems are using the new EPA rules curbing carbon emissions from existing power plants to achieve maximum distance from Obummer, particularly in red states.
But here’s one top tier Senate race where this is not happening. In Michigan, the Democratic candidate is embracing the general goal of the new EPA rules as crucial for addressing global warming — and using them to draw a contrast with his Republican opponent as anti-science.
Dem Rep. Gary Peters is running against Republican Terri Lynn Land, and he has already signaled that he will use climate change as an issue against her, suggesting it could actually matter in this race, for a host of reasons specific to the state.
Now Peters is generally embracing the goal of the new EPA rules — though he has real concerns about how they will impact Michigan — and notably, he’s not backing down from plans to use climate change against Land. He’s hitting his opponent — who has attacked the new rules as an assault on coal and jobs — on her refusal to say whether human activity is the cause of global warming. In a statement sent my way, Peters says:
It’s unacceptable that my opponent is more worried about ensuring the two out of state billionaires who are bankrolling her campaign get new tax breaks than about Michigan’s economy, our Great Lakes, and our agricultural producers. Terri Lynn Land refuses to acknowledge that climate change exists, so she cannot be part of crafting a responsible, common-sense solution, which can help create jobs.
Peters does also say he has concerns about the new EPA rules, but is unequivocal for the need for this type of ambitious governmental action to curb carbon emissions:
We must take action to address climate change, but we must do so in a way that works for Michigan families, manufacturers, and our emerging clean energy sector. The setting of achievable and affordable carbon reduction goals is an essential and important first step in that process.
However, I am concerned that the proposed draft EPA rules impose a more stringent standard on Michigan than surrounding Midwestern states. The rule needs to include a mid-term review process to ensure timelines are realistic and recognize that progress may be linear. I believe that a process similar to what was adopted to increase motor vehicle fuel efficiency standards should be included in the EPA rule. I will work with the Governor, the delegation, and Michigan energy stakeholders and businesses to ensure we do this right while ensuring sustainable and reliable energy at predictable prices.
And so, Peters wants changes to the EPA rules — that’s what the year-long public comment period is for — but stands behind the goal of setting carbon goals to fight climate change, which he sees as an urgent problem. By contrast, Land casts the EPA rules in apocalyptic “war on coal” terms. In her response to the rules, Land accused Obama of an “enormous regulatory attack on coal,” and called on Peters to “oppose these regulations instead of selling out Michigan jobs for his radical environmental agenda.” Meanwhile, in a previous statement the Land campaign declined to say clearly whether she believes human activity is the leading cause of climate change.
This fundamental contrast is not nearly as visible in other races. In Kentucky, for instance, Alison Lundergan Grimes is employing “war on coal” rhetoric that is similar to that of her opponent, though in fairness, she has acknowledged that “climate change is real and that humans are partly responsible.”
Obviously it’s politically far more difficult for a Dem to embrace climate action in places like Kentucky than it is in Michigan. But in a way, that’s the point. Regional differences are allowing Peters to set what he sees as a kind of template for how Midwestern Dems can handle the issue — call for state-specific changes to the rules, while generally embracing the goal of curbing carbon emissions and using the issue to corner opponents as hostile to science and ideologically incapable of basic cooperative problem-solving.
As Brian Beutler writes today, in red states, it’s easier for Republicans to obscure the link between the climate skepticism imposed on the party by the right, and their opposition to policy action on global warming, because Dems are in too weak a political position to call them out on it. But more broadly, as Beutler also notes, “reducing emissions is broadly popular,” and “reactionary anti-science is not.” We may soon see this on display in the Michigan Senate race.