WASHINGTON — In a departure from his typically measured rhetoric on energy and climate policy, Sen. John Cornyn derided concern about climate change as a “cult” during an energy summit in East Texas.
“It’s pure fantasy. … This is part of the cult, or religion, of renewable energy,” Cornyn told a group of oil and gas executives Thursday in Tyler. “This is just the Green New Deal wearing other clothes.”
The senator was responding to a question about whether he agreed with a sweeping Biden administration plan to transition the energy sector to 100% emissions-free electricity by 2035.
Referring to climate change advocates as a cult is an unusual move for Cornyn, a reliable booster of Texas’ fossil fuel industries who, unlike Sen. Ted Cruz, has not overtly denied that potentially catastrophic changes are underway in the climate largely because of human activity.
By contrast, Cruz has not shied from such inflammatory rhetoric. He has gone out of his way to defend climate change deniers and attack environmentalists and others who accept the scientific consensus that industrial activity and energy production have put billions of people at risk of flooding, wildfire, drought and unusually harsh storms.
In a 2015 interview with Glenn Beck, Cruz said scientists must approach global warming with skepticism.
“Climate change isn’t science, it’s religion,” Cruz said in the interview. “Look at the language, where they call you a denier. Denier is not the language of science.”
Cornyn echoed some of that language as the keynote speaker at the Tyler Area Chamber of Commerce Energy Summit, where people in the audience audibly scoffed at the idea of moving away from fossil fuels.
“Obviously, we are taking what is a great national asset and jeopardizing that by taxing it into oblivion,” Cornyn said. “But this is not part of the narrative in D.C. This industry does its job so well, people take it for granted.”
Cornyn’s official stance on energy and climate change, according to his website, is to encourage conservation while “increasing the responsible production of our domestic sources of fossil fuels and exploring alternative sources to make our nation more energy-secure.”
On Thursday, Cornyn attacked a number of Biden administration measures that would promote the use of those alternative sources.
Ed Hirs, a lecturer and energy fellow at the University of Houston, said the senator’s reluctance to cut fossil fuel production relies on an outdated political playbook.
“The world’s a lot more literate on this now than it used to be when Cornyn was first elected,” Hirs said. “This indicates a head-in-the-sand approach that is not sustainable.”
Biden’s American Jobs Plan, an infrastructure proposal that started at $2 trillion and is being reduced with each new round of talks with Senate Republicans, would extend tax credits for wind and solar and set “clean” electricity standards.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., author of the Green New Deal, has complained that Biden’s plan doesn’t go nearly far enough to address climate change.
Cornyn also took aim at proposed incentives for electric vehicles, echoing comments last week on the Clean Energy for America Act, approved May 26 by the Senate Finance Committee. That legislation, sponsored by Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., would overhaul tax rules to prioritize clean electricity and energy efficiency over oil and gas.
Cornyn has been a vocal critic of efforts to get electric vehicles on the road, saying the push subsidizes pricier vehicles for wealthy Americans.
“I support efforts to reduce carbon emissions, to preserve our air, land and water for future generations,” Cornyn said last week on the Wyden bill. “But those efforts don’t have to come at this sort of exorbitant price. You can support all energy sectors and innovation and conservation. These are not mutually exclusive.”
Cornyn has called the Green New Deal a “grab bag of socialist policies.” And he has staunchly opposed the Democrat-led push for a ban of new fracking on federal land, deeming it “entirely unrealistic” as well as economically devastating to Texas.
A 2020 study by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Global Energy Institute concluded that a ban on fracking would kill 3 million jobs in Texas alone, though the chamber did not say Biden had called for one.
Cornyn has suggested that the best way to tackle energy and climate issues is through legislation that promotes “energy innovation,” including research into carbon-capture technology for natural gas.
Carbon dioxide is a major greenhouse gas, though not as bad as carbon monoxide, which is released during natural gas production if it is not burned off.
Carbon capture aims to lock carbon into solid form and avoid release into the atmosphere, and it’s an approach embraced both by industry experts and climate activists.
Colin Leyden, director of regulatory and legislative affairs for the Environmental Defense Fund, said Cornyn’s remarks were “out of touch” with voters and oil and gas companies, which largely support a net-zero-emissions future.
“What Sen. Cornyn says in a room in Tyler isn’t going to stop the transition to a clean energy future,” Leyden said. “I think it’s out of step with voters.”
Friends, this isn’t the time to be complacent. If you are ready to fight for the soul of this nation, you can start by donating to elect Joe Biden and Kamala Harris by clicking the button below.
Thank you so much for supporting Joe Biden’s Presidential campaign.