House Republicans will hold their first hearing on climate change in more than two years this week. Sadly, its focus is unlikely to be sensible strategies that are sorely needed to reduce the United States’s greenhouse-gas emissions, such as setting a price on carbon, but rather how existing efforts to protect the climate are too expensive.
Rep. Ed Whitfield, a Kentucky Republican and chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee’s subcommittee on energy and power, has invited representatives of 13 federal agencies to appear, asking them to report on how much money they’ve spent on climate change, how many employees or contractors work on those files, the regulations they’ve issued or are developing and the grants they’ve awarded.
The administration, for its part, seems unwilling to play ball. So far, only Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz have agreed to appear. That’s not the right response.
Although the Republicans’ see-nothing, do-nothing strategy on climate change is silly, they’re right to seek information about what the administration is doing and what it costs. President Barack Obama proposed a climate plan in June that seeks to work around Congress, which may help explain Republicans’ confrontational stance. Yet their posture doesn’t excuse the administration’s pathetic response or mean that congressional oversight is unimportant.
Oversight is more than just giving the executive branch a hard time, of course. Noticeably absent from the subcommittee’s otherwise detailed request for information are any questions about what the administration’s efforts have accomplished: how many kilowatt hours have been saved, tons of greenhouse-gas emissions reduced, products created, asthma diagnoses prevented.
By not cooperating, however, the administration fails to acknowledge Congress’s legitimate responsibility to keep tabs on the executive branch. Worse, the agencies miss the chance to explain their achievements on climate change, instead asking Congress and the public to have blind faith in those efforts.
Bloomberg News (Sept. 17)