Wyoming’s Republican senators can’t wait to go from being in the minority to the majority party come January. In the new year the GOP will hold all the gavels - and with them, most of the power - on Capitol Hill. But Republicans are still locked out of the White House, which Senator John Barrasso is keenly aware of. He's not happy the president is using his pen on immigration reform or to agree to carbon emission targets with China.
“Well, the president continues to do a number of things to make an end run around the American people. I mean, that’s the big concern here, and we’re seeing it happening now with Iran. We’re seeing it perhaps on immigration and we’re certainly seeing it with climate and what he has done and his announcement in China.”
In closed-door talks with China's president, Mr. Obama agreed that by 2025 the U.S. would drop U.S. emissions by 26 percent to 28 percent of 2005 levels. Barrasso says the deal isn't in America's interests.
“I think it puts us at a disadvantage. It causes for significant action in the United States before China has to act.”
In exchange for the U.S. cuts China is supposed to target a peak to its fossil fuel emissions in 20-30, which Barrasso decries.
“We have to do more on emissions in a shorter period of time, and China continues with increasing emissions all the way through 2030. The concessions by the United States are real and significant, and those by China are theoretical.”
Wyoming Senior Senator Mike Enzi saw this in the nineties during the Clinton presidency when former Vice President Al Gore was taking charge of the issue.
“I went to several of the climate change conferences, which we called global warming at that time. But since it’s gotten colder and warmer, they’re calling it climate change now. And what I got the feeling, the way that the different countries were negotiating, was their main goal was to put the United States at an economic disadvantage, not to solve the climate change.”
The environmental community completely disagrees. Julian Boggs works on climate change for Environment America.
“What China committed to is absolutely historic. It was absolutely a game-changer. The United States was able, President Obama was able to make that commitment, I think, largely based on his success domestically, ramping up renewable energy, tripling wind, a tenfold solar increase over the course of his presidency.”
Boggs says the agreement will ripple across the globe and Wyoming can play a major role in reducing global emissions.
“Wyoming has enough solar potential to power – to provide enough power for the state six hundred and fifty-seven times over. Wyoming is already the twelfth largest producer of wind energy in the country. So Wyoming has huge renewable resource.”
But Senator Enzi argues fossil fuels are given short shrift by the administration.
“There’s no money being put out for loan guarantees for cleaner coal. We allocated that money, but unlike wind and solar, who have gotten subsidies, the loan guarantees haven’t gone out. I have this belief in the American ingenuity that they could do better and should do better. And you just need to challenge the people of America specifically with something.”
Enzi maintains renewables aren't the future for Wyoming.
“I’m pretty sure if plastered the whole state with solar panels and only left room for wind generators that it still wouldn’t come up with the same amount of power generation as we do at relatively small locations for coal-fired power plants.”
But the environmentalist Boggs says Enzi is misguided.
“Opponents have been saying for years that the United States shouldn’t act because China wasn’t willing to step to the plate. Guess what. The United States led. We acted. China stepped up to the plate, and we have an historic agreement. And now we have folks saying that we’re not doing enough, and that’s just absurd.”
Absurd or not, China and the U.S. have struck a deal to curb emissions. What happens to Wyoming because of it, or the state does with it, is anyone's guess for now.