Analysis | Nikki Haley wants to address climate change not by reducing carbon, but capturing it – The Washington Post
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In today’s edition, we’ll cover Tesla’s decision to make its electric vehicle chargers more accessible and the continued fallout of the toxic train derailment in Ohio. But first:
Nikki Haley is jumping into the 2024 presidential race with a mixed climate record
Nikki Haley, a former United Nations ambassador and governor of South Carolina, announced Tuesday she is running for president, becoming the first major Republican rival to officially challenge Donald Trump.
Climate change isn’t expected to be a central issue in the GOP presidential primary. But Haley has said there’s a need to address the problem, differentiating herself from Trump and many other prominent Republicans.
At the same time, Haley has joined other Republicans in promoting efforts to capture harmful emissions from heavily polluting industries, rather than preventing those emissions from entering the atmosphere in the first place.
Conservative environmental groups have applauded Haley’s willingness to discuss climate change, saying it could win over younger conservative voters, who polls show are more concerned about the issue than older generations.
But liberal green groups have slammed her support for carbon-capture technology, calling it incompatible with warnings from leading scientists, who say the world must rapidly cut emissions to avert catastrophic warming.
Here’s a closer look at Haley’s approach to climate policy, which comes as sea levels around Charleston, S.C. — where she will make an official campaign announcement today — have risen by about 10 inches since 1950, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration:
Capturing, not curbing, emissions
During nearly two decades in public office, Haley has consistently criticized bold policies to slash greenhouse gas emissions, preferring instead to capture those emissions after they have already been released.
In 2014, while serving as governor of South Carolina, Haley lambasted President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which sought to curb greenhouse gas pollution from power plants, as an example of Washington “sending us backwards.” The plan has been blocked by the Supreme Court and the power sector has already met its requirements, but at the time Haley argued that the requirement would raise utility rates and cost the state jobs.
In 2017, during her time as U.N. ambassador, Haley helped orchestrate Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate accord, which seeks to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels.
And in a 2020 video released by her advocacy group Stand for America, Haley declared that “man-made climate change is real, but liberal ideas would cost trillions and destroy our economy.” She specifically slammed the Green New Deal, the liberal proposal to wean the country off fossil fuels in a decade, as a “bad idea.”
Instead, Haley voiced support for sucking carbon dioxide from the air, both by installing carbon-capture technology at polluting industrial facilities and planting more trees, which sequester carbon through photosynthesis.
“The private sector produces innovative ideas that actually work, like capturing CO2 before it goes into our air [and] reforestation — a.k.a. planting more trees and forests to soak up CO2,” she said.
Right-leaning environmental groups have sighed with relief at Haley’s acknowledgment that climate change is real and human-caused (recall that Trump falsely called global warming a “hoax” invented by the Chinese).
Benji Backer, president of the American Conservation Coalition, which organizes young Republicans around free-market climate change solutions, said it’s “refreshing” to hear Haley accept the scientific consensus.
“Other than Donald Trump, the era of climate denial with presidential candidates is going to be largely over,” Backer said.
Haley’s rhetoric could resonate with younger conservative voters who “care a lot” about addressing climate change, he added, pointing to recent polling. For instance, a Pew Research Center poll last year found that nearly half of Republicans ages 18 to 29 say the federal government is doing too little to combat climate change, compared with just 18 percent of Republicans 65 and older.
Former congressman Bob Inglis (R-S.C.), who was unseated in a 2010 primary runoff after being hammered by GOP rivals for proposing a tax on carbon emissions, said it’s now far less politically risky for Haley to discuss climate issues.
“The screw has turned,” said Inglis, who is now executive director of the Energy and Enterprise Initiative at George Mason University. “It is completely different now. But I am grateful to her for saying clearly that climate change is real.”
However, liberal green groups say it’s not enough for Haley to simply acknowledge the reality of the climate crisis. They say she must match her rhetoric with support for phasing out fossil fuels, the primary driver of the problem.
Instead, Haley has stressed carbon capture technology, which some environmentalists call a “false climate solution” because it could prolong the life of coal- and natural gas-fired power plants.
“A generalized acknowledgment that climate change is real doesn’t really get you out of the F column in terms of a passing grade on climate,” said Brett Hartl, chief political strategist at the Center for Biological Diversity Action Fund.
Conservation Voters of South Carolina, the state affiliate of the League of Conservation Voters, gave Haley a D grade on environmental issues during her time as governor. The group faulted her for complaining about the Clean Power Plan, failing to prepare for increased flooding, and reportedly quashing a climate change report from the state’s Department of Natural Resources.
“To acknowledge that climate change is real is an absurdly low bar, and it cannot be the case that Republican presidential candidates in 2024 are given even an iota of credit for not being outright climate deniers,” said Tiernan Sittenfeld, senior vice president of government affairs at the League of Conservation Voters.
Haley’s campaign did not respond to questions about her environmental views.
Elon Musk agrees to open parts of Tesla’s charging network to everyone
Tesla will begin allowing non-Tesla drivers to use some of its proprietary charging stations, the White House announced Wednesday, giving a major boost to the nation’s transition from gasoline-powered cars to electric vehicles, The Washington Post’s Shannon Osaka reports.
By the end of 2024, Tesla will open up 7,500 EV chargers to all drivers, regardless of whether they’re behind the wheel of a Nissan Leaf or an electric Ford F-150. The announcement will help accelerate President Biden’s plan of creating a national network of 500,000 EV chargers.
The decision comes after White House officials asked Elon Musk during a private meeting last month to make Tesla’s charging network more widely accessible, The Post’s Tyler Pager and Jeff Stein scooped last week. The meeting put John Podesta and Mitch Landrieu, two top Biden aides, in the awkward position of asking Musk — who has repeatedly sparred with the president and other top Democrats — for help making progress on their climate goals.
The Biden administration is also issuing new rules for any chargers that receive federal funds to make these stations more accessible. New chargers will have to include consistent plug types, have 97 percent reliability, and allow drivers to use a single method of identification that works across all chargers.
EPA outlines plans for $27 billion in green loans
The Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday detailed its plans for implementing the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, a $27 billion program in the Inflation Reduction Act aimed at providing low-cost financing for clean-energy projects, Bloomberg News’s Jennifer A. Dlouhy reports.
The EPA said it would provide about $20 billion for clean-energy projects nationwide, with an additional $7 billion earmarked for solar projects in disadvantaged communities. However, the EPA rebuffed calls from several groups to dedicate the funding to a single, national green bank.
On a call with reporters Tuesday, EPA Administrator Michael Regan and the EPA’s acting director of the program, Jahi Wise, emphasized that the agency wasn’t ruling anything out and that the climate law allows for multiple grant recipients.
“At this juncture, there’s just no reason for us to take any options off the table and box ourselves in,” Regan said.
In the states
Drink bottled water, officials tell Ohio town hit by toxic train crash
Eleven days after a train derailed in East Palestine, Ohio, spilling toxic chemicals and causing a massive fire, officials told residents to drink bottled water, heightening concerns about the environmental and public health effects of the accident, Nick Keppler, Anna Phillips and Justine McDaniel report for The Post.
As a large plume of contamination flows down the Ohio River, killing about 3,500 fish in local waterways, Ohio Health Director Bruce Vanderhoff said at a news conference Tuesday that “bottled water’s the right answer.”
In addition to wondering about their drinking water, residents have worried about a strong odor of toxic chemicals hanging over the town. Bodiah Cepin, 21, said he is frustrated about how little he knows about his potential exposure to toxic chemicals.
Vinyl chloride and butyl acrylate were the primary chemicals that were released, Ohio EPA spokesman James Lee told The Post on Tuesday. The others included ethylene glycol monobutyl ether and ethylhexyl acrylate.
“I wouldn’t want to be exposed to any of them in significant amounts,” Erik D. Olson, a senior strategic director at the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental advocacy group, said in an email. “They all pose hazards if inhaled.”
In the atmosphere
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