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House Republicans to unveil conservative road map on climate, energy

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy plans to call for boosting domestic fossil fuel production and streamlining the permitting process for large infrastructure projects

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on May 11. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
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House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) plans to unveil a strategy Thursday outlining how Republicans would address climate change, energy and environmental issues if their party gains control of the House in the midterm elections, according to three people familiar with the matter.

The strategy calls for streamlining the permitting process for large infrastructure projects, increasing domestic fossil fuel production and boosting exports of U.S. liquefied natural gas, which proponents say is cleaner than gas produced in other countries, according to the individuals, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe details that are not yet public.

The individuals cautioned that the road map is far-reaching and includes a variety of environmental priorities with broad support across the Republican conference. The final details will be announced Thursday afternoon, although additional information will be shared in the coming weeks, according to one of the people.

The plan is expected to take a much more modest approach to slashing planet-warming emissions than proposals from President Biden and congressional Democrats, who have focused on accelerating the nation’s transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy. Leading scientists have said the world must rapidly phase out fossil fuels to stave off the consequences of unchecked climate change.

Republicans have historically opposed measures to tackle climate change, and the de facto leader of the party, former president Donald Trump, has mocked the scientific consensus on global warming. It is unclear whether the GOP plans would, in fact, reduce carbon emissions, or if they instead largely amount to an attempt to deflect political blame over Republicans’ long-standing opposition to addressing catastrophic global warming.

To meet the more ambitious goal of the 2015 Paris agreement, the world must eliminate coal use within 30 years, according to the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Gas dependence should be reduced by 45 percent, while oil use must fall 60 percent by the middle of the century, the IPCC said in a recent report that concluded humanity is running out of time to meet global climate goals.

“I welcome the efforts of anyone, regardless of party, who is willing to seriously tackle climate change — but on its face this does not look like a serious proposal," Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) said Wednesday of the GOP plan.

“Most people understand that a serious climate solution requires a shift towards cleaner sources of energy, but the Republicans apparently want to take us in the opposite direction, with more dependence on dangerous, dirty energy sources," Beyer added. "I understand that my Republican colleagues love fossil fuel production, but it simply isn’t genuine or helpful to call that a climate change strategy.”

Biden’s climate and social spending plan, formerly known as the Build Back Better Act, has stalled in the Senate for months amid opposition from Republicans and Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.). If Democrats lose full control of government in the midterms, the president’s climate agenda would face even greater legislative roadblocks, threatening his goal of cutting U.S. emissions in half this decade.

McCarthy, who would probably become speaker if the GOP picks up enough seats in the midterms, last year tasked Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.) with chairing a task force on climate, energy and conservation. The strategy is the result of months of internal deliberations within that task force, which includes 17 GOP members.

Spokespeople for McCarthy and Graves declined to comment on the record ahead of the official rollout on Thursday.

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McCarthy has said that House Republicans plan to release a broad policy agenda ahead of November’s elections to give voters an idea of how the party would govern if it takes control of the House. That stands in contrast to the approach being taken by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who has said Senate Republicans do not plan to release any policy proposals and will instead campaign on their criticisms of congressional Democrats and the Biden administration.

The House GOP plan comes as Republicans seek to make gains with well-educated suburban voters in November. Some of these voters may want to see Republicans take a more proactive stance on climate change and energy policy, rather than letting Democrats dominate the debate, said George David Banks, a Republican climate policy expert who served as a White House climate adviser under Trump.

“It’s the competitive seats that make a difference,” he said. “And most of those run through the suburbs. So there’s certainly a recognition that you’ve got to win a critical mass of those to control the House.”

Philip Rossetti, a senior fellow on energy at the R Street Institute, a free-market think tank, agreed.

“Republicans are poised to take the House, but keeping it is going to require showing moderate voters that they can govern,” Rossetti said. “Building a climate platform that Americans can support helps them show that they’re about more than just opposing Democrats.”