|Ted Cruz during the campaign trail. Photo credit: Gage Skidmore via Flickr.|
By Anders Lorenzen
The US presidential race, in the wake of the extremism of Donald Trump, has almost forgotten the also extreme far right policies of Ted Cruz making him nearly come across as a moderate. But make no mistake, when it comes to climate change, the Texan Senator is as extreme as they come.
Owned by Big Oil?
Data compiled last month by the Center for Responsive Politics might give an indicator as to why Cruz releases one climate change denying message after the other; he is Big Oil’s favourite candidate! No other candidate, Republicans or Democrats are getting close to the staggering sums he receives from the oil industry or those employed in it. As of mid-February he had received almost double, the amount that Jeb Bush had received (now retired from the race), with Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton is in the third place. The oil industry and its employees have donated a staggering $700,000 to the Senator from Texas who is running an evangelical-themed debate and wants less government intervention and less regulation, nowhere more so than in the energy industry.
Cruz backed by climate-denying businesses
So what exactly are his views on climate change? At an August event, last year sponsored by climate-denying billionaires Charles and David Koch, Cruz unsurprisingly denied climate change: “If you look to the satellite data in the last 18 years there has been zero recorded warming. Now the global warming alarmists, that’s a problem for their theories. Their computer models show massive warming, the satellite says it ain’t happening. We’ve discovered that NOAA, the federal government agencies are cooking the books”.
It is important to clarify that these claims have no scientific backing and have repeatedly been rebuffed by the world’s top climate scientists.
In March last year, Cruz said: “the global warming alarmists are the equivalent of flat-Earthers”.
In bed with Big Oil
And if you wanted more proof that Cruz is in bed with the corporate US fossil fuel energy industry, The American Energy Alliance (AEA) released a statement endorsing him for President calling him a Hero: “Included in this legislation is a provision to prohibit the federal government from regulating greenhouse gas emissions. This would stop President Obama’s power plant regulations, which amount to a federal takeover of the electricity system, from moving forward”. The organisation moved on to attack wind power: “he has voted against a five-year extension of the wind Production Tax Credit (PTC)”. This last note makes perfect sense as it explains why Cruz has failed to throw his support behind Texas’s surging wind power industry.
Mark Jones, who is a political science professor at Rice University in Houston said that his financial connections to the oil industry equates Cruz’s position on climate change: “If you line up the priorities of the hydrocarbons industry, they fit almost perfectly with Cruz’s positions” and he underlined “It’s a natural policy fit.”
And it is a sentiment that is echoed by the global environmental campaigning organisation, Greenpeace. Jesse Coleman who is an oil and gas campaigner with the organisation said this of Cruz’s connections with Big Oil: “Ted Cruz’s complete denial of climate change science is perfectly in line with the business interests of his biggest funders. These fossil funders have made denying climate change and ignoring scientists a prerequisite for being a Republican candidate.”
But Katharine Hayhoe, who is a climate scientist at the Texas Tech University comes at it from a different angle. She told me that she does not think Cruz has been bought by Big Oil, she says it is more likely those are his views, it’s his worldview which is not impacted by financial contributions.
Based on her view it is perfectly reasonable to consider that Big Oil is attracted to Cruz and have responded with large sum donations precisely due to his views on climate change and that they see him as a perfect candidate to ensure business, as usual, is carried out rather than Big Oil having shaped his view.
Cruz’s view is fundamentally based on easing the regulation of fossil fuel extraction and thereby increasing the burning of hydrocarbons.
Texas and climate change
Texas is one of the most skeptical states in the US when it comes to believing in climate change and has a long history of politicians denying climate change. But at the same time, it is also one of the state’s most prone to climate change induced weather extremes. So far the response in the state has been based on religious views, such as former Governor Rick Perry’s response to unprecedented droughts, as a solution, he advocated ‘Let’s Pray for Rain’.
But could Cruz’s worldview start to become undone in the state? Hayhoe, a Christian herself has made it her mission to communicate that you can be a Christian and still agree with the science on human-induced climate change. An issue that was documented in the critically acclaimed US climate change documentary series, ‘Years of Living Dangerously’. In the TV series, viewers witnessed Hayhoe engaging with Christian communities around climate change, promoting the view that it is perfectly acceptable to agree with the science behind climate change while being true to your Christian beliefs.
Texas’s surging wind power industry
How Texas produces its energy, could also start to make Cruz’s view redundant. Wind power has been an extremely popular energy source in Texas, with farmers having become millionaires by installing wind turbines on their vastly spanning acres of land. Those farmers might not believe in climate change, but they for sure understand the importance of the wind power industry in terms of job creation and a stable economy. At a time of declining revenues for the oil industry, and the severe reduction of oil rigs in Texas due to the crumbling oil price, wind power has become a real success story in the state. Perhaps in the future, we could see a Texas politician who is backed by the wind power industry? Though evidence suggests that we should not get ahead of ourselves and that we are however some time away from that becoming a reality.
While Donald Trump continues to lead the Republican race in securing the nomination to run for President, of late Cruz has started to give him real competition. But one thing is becoming more certain, while the majority of the world’s largest economies accept the reality of human-induced climate change, the reality that the Republican party could nominate a candidate moving the party even further towards the climate denying view is edging closer by the day. That would place the party in a position further away from a reality that is shared not only by the world’s largest economies that the US relies on trade deals with but also the majority of countries full stop.
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