Saying it will take a bipartisan effort to fashion effective legislation to combat climate change and make the country more energy independent, U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham has joined with Massachusetts Democrat John Kerry to develop a measure that would tie greenhouse gas reductions with nuclear power and expanded offshore drilling. Graham says he is seeking to help the country and further develop South Carolina’s economy.
“We have to come up with a bill that can responsibly limit carbon without putting us in the dark and putting us at a disadvantage visa-a-vie China and India,” said Graham. “The measure should also allow for offshore drilling in a responsible way that would produce another revenue stream for our state, as well as engage in a renaissance of nuclear power. A bill with those components would benefit South Carolina as much or more than any state . The jobs that would be created in our state would be the type that would never go away in terms of outsourcing and would pay good wages.”
Many conservatives are attacking Graham for aligning with Kerry, while environmentalists are labeling the move a “game changer” that could propel climate change legislation through the Senate.
Graham says he doesn’t believe you can move to a “green” economy until you put a price on carbon emissions and that is why he says he is for a pollution control bill. But Graham says the bill has to be married up with energy independence. Graham says nuclear power accounts for 70 percent of the power produced in the U.S. through means that does not produce greenhouse gases. Graham says the measure he envisions must include a nuclear energy component.
“The nuclear renaissance I’m looking for doesn’t exist in any of the present bills,” said Graham. “The permitting reform, the loan guarantees are not such in these bills to really rejuvenate the nuclear power industry. If you don’t have a robust nuclear power industry, you’ll never solve your pollution problems because you can’t get there from here with wind and solar. You would need a new nuclear title.”
Graham says South Carolina is well positioned to benefit from a nuclear renaissance with the research at the Savannah River Site in terms of dealing with waste and building new reactors of the future. Currently 52 percent of the eletric power in South Carolina is generated from nuclear power plants.
Graham says the reason gasoline prices are fluctuating so much is because we are more dependent on foreign oil than we have ever been as a nation. Graham says we will still be dependent on fossil fuels for some time to come so he proposes that the nation open up its oil reserves while adopting what he calls an”environmentally responsible” offshore drilling program, including drilling off the coast of South Carolina.
“I firmly believe if you had offshore drilling provisions you would get more votes because people would see energy independence being achieved and they would tolerate an emission controls bill,” said Graham. “You don’t have to believe in climate change to vote for the bill I’m talking about, you just have to believe that controlling carbon is the way to get to energy independence. You don’t have to believe that offshore drilling will lead to energy independence, you just have understand that you won’t have emission controls until you do something about energy independence.” Graham proposes sharing of the revenues from discovered oil to states that consent to offshore drilling.
Graham says he is well aware of the attacks by some conservative groups concerning his involvement in climate change legislation. He says he considers it part of the job of taking on an important issue that has economic implications.
“In politics when you take on tough issues people come after you,” said the Senator. “There’s a lot of money being made by the status quo. What I’m talking about would change the status quo so the people making the most money controlling the energy supplies today would not have the same market share if we expanded. They don’t want that, so they’re fighting for their interest and they’re coming after me. That is just the way politics is.”
Because of the airing of recent attack ads aimed at Graham, a number of state environmental groups, Republican leaders, and eletric utilities have joined forces and are now running ads in support of Graham’s efforts.
Graham says because of the research being conducted by the Clemson University I-CAR program, hydrogen fuel cell research at the University of South Carolina, as well as other research projects he envisions the state as a leader in the future in the production of non-gasoline powered vehicles.
“Where the research exists is where manufacturing will come,” said Graham. “My goal one day is for South Carolina to be sort of the Detroit for the hybrid car. The hydrogen car , the battery-powered cars would be manufactured in South Carolina because of our workforce and our good work environment. The research is already in place.”