Biden's climate change orders take a sledgehammer to Western state economies: Barrasso

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On Inauguration Day, I attended President Joe Biden’s swearing-in ceremony and listened to his speech. It was my 16th presidential inauguration. As a boy, my father took me to see President John F. Kennedy take the oath of office. I have attended every public inauguration since. I brought my daughter with me this year. It was the seventh time we shared the peaceful transfer of power.

The president’s call for unity is greatly needed. America is truly at its best when we work together toward common goals. Whether facing wars, economic downturns or pandemics, our nation’s greatest achievements have come when we put partisan politics aside.

Last Congress, Senate Democrats and Republicans proved we can work together on several issues — including protecting our environment. As chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, I partnered with Delaware’s Democratic Sen. Tom Carper to advance the first highway infrastructure bill ever to directly address climate.

Biden's unhelpful executive orders

We worked together to pass a historic, bipartisan environmental innovation law. It supports the development of groundbreaking technologies like carbon capture and carbon use, while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions from school buses, trucks, refrigerators and air conditioners. We succeeded in making sure these measures would not raise costs or cost Americans their jobs.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer called the law “one of the biggest victories to fight global warming in a very long time.'' I agree. Free market innovation — not costly regulation — is the best way to address a changing climate.

We were successful in these efforts because we found common ground. Now, as the top Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, I’m ready to work with President Biden to solve our energy challenges.

President Joe Biden on Jan. 28, 2021, in Washington, D.C.
President Joe Biden on Jan. 28, 2021, in Washington, D.C.

So far, the Biden administration’s actions are nowhere near his unifying words on Inauguration Day. On Day One, the president signed executive orders to stop the Keystone XL pipeline and rejoin the Paris climate accord. The next week he halted new oil, gas and coal leases on federal lands.

These orders will take a sledgehammer to the economies of Western states without putting a dent in climate change.

A federal leasing ban would kill an estimated 62,000 jobs in New Mexico, nearly 120,000 in Texas and more than 33,000 in my home state of Wyoming next year alone, according to the American Petroleum Institute. It will also eliminate hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue that these states depend on for public schools, roads, water projects and other essential services.

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In response to the Keystone cancellation, TC Energy has announced 1,000 layoffs, and the potential union jobs lost could be 10 times higher.

Jennifer Granholm, Biden’s nominee to be Energy secretary, even admitted at her confirmation hearing that some energy jobs “might be sacrificed.” Handing out pink slips will not unite red states and blue states.

Rely on free market and ingenuity

These orders will have no measurable impact on climate change. Energy companies won’t stop producing fossil fuels because they are banned from federal lands. They will simply take their investment and the jobs that go with it elsewhere — likely overseas, where there are fewer environmental safeguards.

Oil from Canada will continue to be imported, but more will come in by rail. President Barack Obama’s State Department said moving that oil by rail would result in up to 42% more carbon emissions.

Damaging America’s economy won’t stop climate change. Between 2015 and 2019, carbon dioxide emissions jumped in Russia, China and India.

At the same time, U.S. emissions continued to drop, as they have since 2007.

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The future of global energy is American ingenuity, investment and innovation. Instead of making traditional energy more expensive, let’s make alternative energy cheaper and more reliable. Carbon capture technologies and advanced nuclear reactors are in development right now. Let’s bring them online at home and then promote their use worldwide.

America and the world will continue to use fuels like oil, natural gas and coal for the foreseeable future. Banning U.S. production of these fuels weakens our energy security and undermines our economic strength. It will saddle Americans with higher energy bills, an additional burden as the nation struggles with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Republicans are not willing to sacrifice American jobs. We are willing to partner with President Biden to make American energy as clean as we can, as fast as we can — without raising costs on the American people.

Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming is ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and chairman of the Senate Republican Conference. Follow him on Twitter: @SenJohnBarrasso

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Economic sledgehammer: Biden climate moves won't unite us or fix crisis