Utah Rep. John Curtis is often the lone wolf among congressional Republicans who acknowledges climate change and worries openly about how to stop it. But he told a national audience Thursday that he maybe sees an angle that can finally excite his GOP colleagues.
That is: It’s time to ramp up against global competition on climate-friendly technology from better solar and wind power generators to higher-tech batteries and other renewable energy — or see the rest of the world leave America behind.
“This one point should get them excited,” he said. “That is, we are on the cusp of either becoming the world leader in this technology or letting somebody else do it.”
He told an online discussion about technology and global warming hosted by The Hill newspaper in Washington, D.C., that competition to lead out on renewable is something that could make Democrats and Republicans actually work together on climate change.
“We must jump on this opportunity,” he said.
“Like the industrial revolution that we’ve had, the United States can lead on this. And this is where we don’t want to miss the boat and where we’ve got to get Republicans and Democrats to come together to make sure that we don’t miss this opportunity.”
Curtis also warned that President Joe Biden is making a mistake by pushing steps against climate change through executive orders instead of working with Congress to pass permanent legislation. Such orders — including pausing new oil and gas leases on federal lands — have brought outcry from Utah GOP politicians.
“As a Republican that wants to jump in and make a difference and wants to make changes, my words [to Biden] are: Don’t leave us out of this. Your executive orders are leaving us out,” Curtis said.
“I’m really hoping that we can change the dialog from these mandates that are not bipartisan to bipartisan work,” he said. “If we do it as Congress, we do it on a bipartisan basis and we build goodwill and we move forward together.”
Also, Curtis said executive orders could be overridden after the next presidential election, and true permanent change requires bipartisan work in Congress.
As he has said previously, Curtis also hoped aloud for a change by everyone in defining who is a real environmentalist. He said it should include anyone who cares about nature and the Earth, rather than just those who might back more controversial proposals such as the Green New Deal. He said that would make it easier for all sides to talk.
“I used to tell people: ‘This is a secret. Don’t let anybody know I’m an environmentalist,’” he joked. “But the reality of it is we all are.”
He added, “You can’t find a Utahn who doesn’t really care about clean air and clean water.” Curtis said his goal is to find ways “to make them feel more comfortable [politically] talking about it.”