U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham renewed his call Tuesday for federal controls on greenhouse gas pollution, despite continued criticism from the Republican Party's most conservative members.
Graham, R-S.C., backs legislation to crack down on carbon dioxide pollution, which he said will also boost the U.S. economy and reduce the nation's dependence on foreign oil. He hopes compromise legislation he is working on will be more palatable to lawmakers who have expressed concern about two other greenhouse gas bills that "don't have a snowball's chance in hell" of passing Congress.
Speaking to more than 100 people at a climate change conference in Columbia, Graham said Congress needs to act to control greenhouse gases or the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will adopt its own regulations.
With polar ice caps melting and air pollution a threat, it's also good for the world and the nation, he said.
"I have come to conclude that greenhouse gases and carbon pollution is not a good thing," Graham said. "All the cars and trucks and plants that have been in existence since the Industrial Revolution, spewing out carbon day-in and day-out, will never convince me that's a good thing for your children and the future of the planet."
Graham's comments came a day after the Lexington County Republican Party voted to censure him, in part for supporting federal cap-and-trade legislation. He has been a leader in the push and has worked with leading Democrats. A cap-and-trade system is supposed to limit pollution by requiring companies that want to emit more than certain amounts of greenhouse gases to buy credits from those producing lower amounts. Some critics have complained bitterly about the costs to businesses of cap-and-trade legislation.
But Graham said controlling carbon pollution "is a worthy endeavor" that would, in addition to attacking the problem of rising global temperatures, clean up the nation's air and water.
He received applause after his speech at the conference, attended mostly by foresters, farmers and environmentalists. Supporters of the conference, held at the state Forestry Commission, included the S.C. Wildlife Federation and the National Wildlife Federation.
Graham is working on compromise legislation that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions as much as 17 percent by 2020, but also would include allowances for offshore oil drilling and incentives for increased use of nuclear power.
He is working with Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass, and Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., on the proposal, according to a recent Houston Chronicle report. Moving away from the nation's reliance on foreign oil will create more demand for other energy sources and create a new energy economy for the U.S., he said. It's also good for national security, since many nations that sell oil are hostile to the U.S., he said. Although some environmentalists oppose offshore oil drilling and the expansion of nuclear power, Graham said both can be done cleanly. "Whatever political push back I get I'm willing to accept because I know what I'm trying to do makes sense to me," Graham said. "I am convinced that reason, logic and good business sense, and good environmental policy, will trump the status quo."
Reach Fretwell at (803) 771-8537.