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Alaska senator's 'climate plan' is just to burn more fossil fuels

Alaska GOP Sen. Dan Sullivan has a lifetime rating of just 8% from the League of Conservation Voters.

By Josh Israel - April 26, 2021
Alaska GOP Sen. Dan Sullivan

Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK) proposed a “pro-jobs climate plan” in a Roll Call op-ed published on Monday. His idea: keep using fossil fuels and do little to protect the climate.

Sullivan claimed that America could either adopt President Joe Biden’s climate agenda to “shut down whole industries, provide pink slips to millions of American workers during a pandemic with no alternatives in the near term, drastically raise prices on American families, undermine economic growth, decrease energy reliability, diminish our national security and do little or nothing to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions,” or continue to focus on “all of the critical energy sectors of the U.S. economy.”

Biden has proposed massive investment in clean energy and climate change reduction, hoping to cut carbon emissions in half by 2030.

Rather than phase out fossil fuels, Sullivan argues, America should develop more “lower-emissions resources, like natural gas, at home and export them abroad.” He proposes that the country use natural gas, renewables, and oil as a “bridge to the technologies that will create a cleaner energy future.”

But natural gas may not reduce emissions all that much. National Geographic reported in February 2020 on the findings of a paper published by researchers in the journal Nature that the amount of methane gas released during natural gas extraction has been underestimated.

“It’s impossible to hit those [Paris agreement] climate targets with methane in the mix,” Lena Höglund Isaksson, a greenhouse gas expert at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria.

“Over the past few years of research I’d say the whole argument for methane for a bridge fuel is really gone,” Cornell University climate scientist Robert Howarth told National Geographic. “But if we go back and say we really do need natural gas for a while, that calculation depends on methane’s break-even point. And we’re not sure we’re close to that.”

Sullivan also dismissed Biden’s proposed “clean energy revolution that creates millions of unionized, middle-class jobs,” arguing that it would be impossible because oil and gas employees currently earn a higher average salary than clean energy sector workers.

Experts say that gap is shrinking. “These are industries that are steadily growing and gaining market share. And the thing I’m hearing is people can’t get hired fast enough,” Susan Sloan, vice president of state affairs at the American Clean Power Association, told the Houston Chronicle in March. “We should be glad we’re in a spot where we’re blessed with so much wind and solar and have been able to build this state with fossil fuel investments.”

While Sullivan frames his argument as concern about the climate, his prior record shows no history of such worries.

According to the League of Conservation Voters, Sullivan voted to protect the environment just 8% of the time both in 2020 and over the course of his career.

He rejected climate science, telling the Alaska Dispatch News in 2014, “Alaska is on the front lines when it comes to changes in our climate, and with seven billion people on earth, humans will have an effect. However, despite what many climate change alarmists want us to believe, there is no general consensus on pinpointing the sole cause of global temperature trends.”

There has been broad scientific consensus for years that anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions are the “primary driver” of rising temperatures.

Sullivan has also pushed to allow oil and gas drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which the Environmental Defense Fund calls a bad idea that would unquestionably cause significant harm to the environment while doing nothing to lower gas prices and providing little oil for the effort.

Sullivan’s support for the fossil fuel sector is not a huge surprise, given his campaign finance history. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, he has received $800,000 from the industry, one of his largest sources of campaign cash.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

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