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Opinion Climate change as an economic issue will hurt Clinton and the Democrats in 2016

Hillary Clinton speaks at a campaign event last week in Scranton, Pa. (Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press)

President Obama’s latest weekly address commemorated the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service — and in extolling the virtues of our national parks, he couldn’t resist the urge to bring up climate change, even going so far as to claim that climate change could “threaten Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty.”

Anyway, the president’s insistence on continuing to make climate change a central part of the past few months of his presidency is having an impact on the 2016 presidential election. (Disclosure: My firm represents interests in the fossil fuel and nuclear power industries.) Hillary Clinton has already repeatedly promised to expand on President Obama’s executive actions on climate-change-related regulations and policies. Her campaign website explicitly states, “Hillary’s plan will deliver on the pledge President Obama made at the Paris climate conference — without relying on climate deniers in Congress to pass new legislation” — and that’s just one small part of her frightening plan. The Democrats like to pretend that global warming is an environmental issue, but in fact, they make it an economic issue and do so at their own peril. If the Democrats are going to make climate change a campaign issue, Republicans have an opportunity to call Clinton out when she is unable to reconcile her calls for more regulation and more spending on global warming measures with the more urgent need to revive economic growth and foster a friendlier business environment for job creation.

What do Clinton’s global warming plans mean for the U.S. economy? They mean more of the same: more of the malaise that produced Donald Trump, stalled GDP growth, deprived the U.S. economy of trillions of dollars and kept it from being the spark that could have helped bolster economies around the world.

The Democrats can’t have it both ways when they talk about expanding costly programs to combat climate change and the need to create jobs. Republican candidates need to hold the Democrats’ feet to the fire and force them to be more precise. Exactly how much do Obama and Clinton want a gallon of gasoline to cost? Exactly how much do they want your electricity bill to go up? What else do they want you to pay for, and what else about your behavior do they demand you change in the name of saving the world? They should be specific. Does Clinton agree with Obama that global warming is one of America’s biggest national security threats? If so, she should say so. And, if it is so important, she should talk in more detail on the campaign trail about the legislation, regulations, agreements and treaties related to climate change policies that she would pursue as president. The Trump campaign doesn’t appear to have the wherewithal to delve deep on this issue or others, so it will be up to GOP congressional campaigns to reveal the Democrats’ hypocrisy.

Until now, Clinton has been sticking to the same tired liberal script and hasn’t strayed from the standard talking points on global warming. If the Democrats are going to own the weather and attribute every bad storm to man-made climate change, then they need to get more specific in this campaign season about how their plans to adjust the global thermostat will not only improve the weather, but also what it will mean for everyone’s pocketbook.

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) noted in a statement on the Senate floor late last year that Obama’s Clean Power Plan would “cost $292 billion, result in double-digit electricity price increases in 40 states and reduce American household income by roughly $79 billion.” And this month, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tex.) wrote an op-ed for Fox News where he stated that “the non-partisan Energy Information Administration at the U.S. Department of Energy has independently found that the Clean Power Plan will … result in almost 376,000 jobs lost over the next 15 years.” If the election could be a referendum on whether Americans want to fund the Democrats’ global warming crusade, I would feel a lot better about Republican prospects in November.

And oh, by the way, the fact that the costs of these measures won’t ever personally impact Obama or Clinton makes for good campaign rhetoric. Obama and Clinton will travel with cars and drivers supplied by American taxpayers for the rest of their lives. They will never fly on anything but a private airplane unless they want to. They will probably never have another mortgage, and their kids will always have plush jobs. It’s hypocritical for them to continue to push for punitive measures that will negatively impact American families while having no discernible positive impact on the climate.

Clinton is committed to continuing Obama’s ideologically driven, pointless global warming crusade, to the detriment of the U.S. economy. Republicans must hold Obama and Clinton accountable for the cost to consumers for their climate change plans and be vocal in the 2016 campaign about how these ill-conceived policies will suppress overall economic growth, depress household income and inhibit job creation.