In honor of Earth Day 2015, I think it’s important to point out that being a conservative does not mean being anti-environmentalism. Back in November of 2014 after Republicans dominated the congressional midterms, The Hill reported that a Republican-led Senate spelled doom for the environment. Among the reasons given for this impending anti-environment disaster were the Republicans’ support of the Keystone XL Pipeline and their repeated ‘attacks’ on the Environmental Protection Agency.
Conservatism, and more broadly the Republican Party, does not inherently imply an anti-environmental position. In regards to the Keystone XL, even Republicans (granted, of a younger generation) will admit that it increases the risk of a potential environmental disaster in the form of an oil spill, invasiveness of a natural environment, etc. Those are irrefutable facts that are cause for concern.
However, both Republican and Democratic supporters of the pipeline are not blind to these possibilities, as much as environmental activists would love to think they are. The Keystone XL Pipeline is a fairly safe project, it would be carefully constructed, and would not be some ‘extra-lethal’ source of environmental damage, as Sen. Barbara Boxer argued it would. The official environmental impact statement published by the State Department’s Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs states that, “climate conditions during the construction period would not differ substantially from current conditions…climate changes are anticipated to occur regardless of any potential effects from the proposed Project” (ES-17).
The real problem is that neither party is proposing environmental alternatives in legislation that can be funded and passed in a bipartisan fashion. There are plenty of different options for energy that are being developed right now, but until then, the country cannot afford to postpone energy projects that will keep the country going. In the same formula that Democrats used to condemn Republican opposition to Obamacare: If Democrats can propose something better, then projects like the Keystone Pipeline will not have to be voted on in the first place. At this point it should be mentioned that 9 Democrats voted for the Keystone Pipeline in January 2015 when it was approved; it was not just Republicans.
Secondly, environmentalists often criticize the GOP for demanding reforms of the EPA. Primarily, these reforms would be intended to lessen the amount of power the EPA currently has. Returning to facts, the EPA does have too much power. It essentially writes policy and even had its authority curbed by the Supreme Court last summer because it was egregiously overreaching in its authority. Younger Republicans would agree that the EPA should have some influence in regulating greenhouse emissions and ensuring that we can all breathe in ten years. But the Republican attack on the EPA is not an attack on the environment, it is a call to implement the federal government’s checks and balances system with an agency that seems to think it can do whatever it wants. Maybe the EPA has been spending too much time with President Obama.
There are Republicans who are interested in global warming and preventing the collapse of our environment. The up and coming generation of Republicans are interested in finding creative solutions to fixing the damage already done, or at least trying to mitigate its effects. However, no one can expect the country to stop its traditional energy policies so that we can wait for more sustainable ideas to be developed, drafted into reasonable legislation that can be funded, and then proposed to Congress. Likewise, no one can expect a federal agency’s blatant disregard for the limits of its own authority to be ignored, as is the case with the EPA. Don’t politicize this Earth Day, because the next generation of Republicans and Democrats both are eager to address environmental concerns and protect the natural world around us.
This article presents the views of author Cole Horton, not necessarily those of the Georgetown University College Republicans or GUCR Board. This piece belongs solely to Mr. Horton and cannot be reproduced in any way without his approval. For more GUCR updates, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.