WASHINGTON — Senator Sheldon WhitehouseDemocrat from Rhode Island. 287 speeches on the Senate floor raising alarms about climate changeThis was often given mainly to C-SPAN cameras within a almost empty chamber.
However, Mr. Whitehouse For his passion for the environment, he has a bigger megaphone and one with real power. He was earlier this year greeted by Mr. Whitehouse Served as the chairman of Senate Budget The Committee is responsible for determining federal revenue and spending. With his newly acquired authority, he is now arguing that a warming world poses fiscal risks, injecting climate changes into the partisan battle over federal spending. on its debt.
As chairman, he attended his first committee hearing on February 15, 2015, he was focused on The risks of climate change for the federal budget as well as the global economy. A 615-page book detailing fiscal risks posed by rising seas, storms, droughts, and wildfires was presented to each colleague.
Its second hearing on March 1st Budget Committee focused on rising sea levels, and climate risks to coastal communities. These are some other things. on The committee will be hearing Wednesday about the economic destruction caused by wildfires.
“I can make the case for the danger of unchecked climate change blowing the debt through the roof, in the same way that both the mortgage meltdown and the pandemic together added $10 trillion to the deficit,” In an interview, he stated these words.
“We have all these warnings,” Mr. Whitehouse At the February 15 hearing. “Warnings of crashes in coastal property values as rising seas and more powerful storms hit the 30-year mortgage horizon. Warnings of insurance collapse from more frequent, intense and unpredictable wildfires. A dangerous interplay between the insurance and mortgage markets hitting real estate markets across the country. Inflation from decreased agricultural yields. Massive infrastructure demand. Trouble in municipal bond markets.”
The new chairman is also pushing a solution that he believes could draw support from at least a handful of Republicans, even if they aren’t eager to support climate action. It’s essentially a tariff added to imported goods like steel and cement based on The carbon emissions from their production. An analyst projects that there will be a carbon tariff. on Imported steel and aluminum could be just two of the many products covered over a decade, raising tens to billions of dollars.
“It advantages American industry and pokes at China’s pollution,” Mr. Whitehouse said. “And anything that is anti-China warms the cockles of Republicans’ hearts.”
Mr. Whitehouse’s rise parallels a movement across the Biden administration to inject climate considerations into everything from farm subsidies to national intelligence.
Some budget experts say that’s merited.
“It’s clear that American taxpayers are paying for the cost of climate change, and that those costs are large and growing,” Steve Ellis is vice president, Taxpayers for Common Sense a nonpartisan group that monitors the budget.
Medicare and Social Security make up a significant portion of federal spending. However, the damages caused by severe weather related to climate change are increasing. Ellis pointed out data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration This shows that there were more weather catastrophes causing damage than $1 billion in the 1980s, compared to three in 1980 and 18 in 2022. It cost the country $165 billion.
“It’s good that Chairman Whitehouse is using his bully pulpit to put a spotlight on these issues,” Ellis stated.
Many Republicans are not in agreement. Many Republicans disagree with the Budget committee’s February hearing, Senator Mike Lee, Republican of Utah, said the nation’s ballooning deficit and debt are “driven by runaway profligate spending by the federal government, not because of any effects of climate change.” Lee attacked those “on the left who seek to use climate alarmism to justify a widespread federal government takeover of our economy.”
Mr. Whitehouse’s counterpart in the House of Representatives, Republican Jodey Arrington of Texas, said a carbon tariff is a nonstarter. “Republicans on the Budget Committee are focused on ways to rein in spending and unleash American prosperity and energy independence,” Chairman of the House, Mr. Arrington said Budget committee. “A carbon tariff would result in just the opposite — higher energy costs for consumers and more regulatory burden on an economy teetering on recession.”
Grover Norquist was the anti-tax lobbyist and responded to a question regarding Mr. Whitehouse’s carbon tariff idea with a straightforward text message: “He is delusional.”
It is likely that, in a divided Congress the committee chairs of each party will not be able to adopt major legislation.
Last year, when Democrats controlled both the chambers of Congress, Mr. Whitehouse was involved in the effort to advance what became the nation’s first major climate law. He was not able to add a tax, or charge. on carbon dioxide, Mr. Whitehouse It was their efforts that ensured the law contained a small fee on There is some methane pollution, which is another greenhouse gas.
While the new law is projected to help cut the nation’s greenhouse emissions up to 40 percent by 2030, it will not be enough to stop adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere by midcentury, which climate scientists say is required of all major economies to avert the most catastrophic impacts of climate change. Economists believe that there should be a tax, or a fee, to do this. on It is necessary to eliminate pollution
That’s where Mr. Whitehouse He sees the opportunity.
“It’s beginning to sink in that we are well short of being on course for our climate goals, which are themselves only a two-thirds shot of being remotely safe,” Mr. Whitehouse In an interview, he stated this in the Senate Office. “I do think that there is a moment when some of the realistic prospects for debt and deficit reduction can come to the fore and they include carbon pricing, which creates massive revenues.”
Allbirds and pinstripes. on On a recent afternoon the senator, who is 67 years old, was seated in an armchair at his Capitol Hill office. He was surrounded with trappings that would make him feel privileged. A photograph of Franklin Roosevelt was inscribed by the ex-president to Mr. Whitehouse’s grandfather, Edwin Sheldon WhitehouseThe United States Minister to Guatemala and Colombia was formerly known as ‘Mr. (Mr. Whitehouse’s father, Charles, was the United States ambassador to Laos and Thailand.) A second photo shows Mr. Whitehouse Edward M. Kennedy, sailing out from Newport. WoodenBoat magazine is available. on A table.
Mr. Whitehouse For his unwavering support of climate legislation during Trump’s administration, he was often referred to as an eccentric figure.
It wasn’t just the daily speeches. Mr. Whitehouse, who had never chaired a Senate committee before this year, directed his staff to compile thousands of pages documenting the fossil fuel industry’s influence on electoral politics. He spent years trying to make deals with Republicans and lawmakers from fossil fuel states — inviting Senator Joe Manchin is the West Virginia Democrat. on The beach at Rhode Island, to witness the effects of rising seas. Join Mr. Manchin on Helicopter tour of the Appalachian coal country. Although Mr. Manchin was unable to kill key climate sections of the Inflation Reduction Act due to his vote, it proved crucial for passage of the more compact law.
Mr. Whitehouse Has had many successes. His collaboration with Mr. Manchin was a success. on Carbon capture technology is legislation which promotes the use of carbon capture technology. This allows the gas to be contained before it escapes into our atmosphere. The new climate law incorporated this language. Because it allows power plants to continue burning coal, oil, and gas while reducing carbon dioxide emissions, the fossil fuel industry backs this technology. It is currently not commercially feasible.
He worked alongside senior Republicans including Senator John Barrasso from Wyoming Senator Shelly Moore Capito of West Virginia — both opponents of Mr. Biden’s climate change agenda — on Legislation to expand and maintain zero-emission nuclear power stations.
Mr. Whitehouse’s own analysis of why he keeps beating the drum on Climate change is happening even though it appears that nothing will change. “I’m a WASP and I live in fear of shame,” He said.
His efforts have not been without Republican support.
A February budget hearing was held. Senator Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah — who has increasingly become an outlier in his own party — offered full-throated support for a carbon tax.
“I have no question that the impact of climate change is going to be significant, devastating in some areas more than others,” said Mr. Romney, who as the Republican presidential candidate in 2012 mocked former President Barack Obama’s pledge to fight global warming. “If we want to do something serious about global emissions then we need to put a price on carbon.”
Senator Bill Cassidy is the Republican from Louisiana. writing his own version of a carbon tariff, intended to protect his home state’s petrochemical industry.
Some strategists believe that a deal can be reached by combining a carbon tax with a bill, which Mr. Manchin had long desired that would accelerate the permitting of fossil fuel pipelines in his state.
Frank Maisano is a veteran Republican media strategist at Bracewell LLP. He lobbies to fossil fuel companies. Whitehouse’s endless quest to fight climate change, he has distinguished himself by being willing to work with Republicans.
“Sheldon is willing to go over that line and talk to people and find practical solutions,” Mr. Maisano said. “It’s shone through already in his work on carbon capture and nuclear. A lot of these climate activists, and House progressives, would never be willing to do that.”
Is that enough Republican support to allow a carbon-tariff bill to be passed?
Mr. Maisano paused.
“Perhaps,” He agreed. “There’s a middle ground there if you’re willing to find it, and guys like Sheldon Whitehouse have been willing to find it — even with his strong values on the environmental side.“