04.08.2011 2

Climate Change: Will the Real Tim Pawlenty Please Stand Up?

Tim PawlentyBy Victor Morawski – Many Conservatives over the past year — myself among them — have viewed former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty as a credible option for the 2012 Republican Nomination.

Some of the faith of his possible supporters has been shaken recently by the surfacing of a radio spot the former Governor did a few years ago along with current EPA Secretary Lisa Jackson urging Congressional passage of the controversial Cap-and-Trade Climate Change Bill, seen by most Conservatives as a disastrously expensive, business-threatening, job-killing piece of legislation that monstrously expands Government control over our lives. “How can an avowed fiscal Conservative like Pawlenty support such a piece of legislation?” they ask themselves.

Pawlenty’s official response has been to offer a logically weak Tu quoque argument to the effect that he was not the only Republican effectively hoodwinked into endorsing what he now believes to be a bad piece of legislation that could balloon the deficit and wreck our economy. In other words, that he was for it before he was against it, but so were other potential 2012 Republican candidates so he was not alone and should basically be given a “pass” on this issue.

But should he? If we were to look for more clues to Pawlenty’s views on environmental issues, where could we go? Let me save readers some time and effort: one place they will not find them is on the candidate’s own web site. So devoid, in fact, is it of any mention of environmental issues and Pawlenty’s views on them that judging from it one would almost think they should be of little or no interest to a potential Presidential candidate.

But Pawlenty is hardly someone who, because he had a possible future run for the Presidency in his sights and was expected to take some position on the issue of climate change, hurriedly endorsed cap-and-trade as an idea that seemed good at the time only to realize when he learned more later, that he could not endorse the bill due to its economic impact. It seems he would have us believe something like this is what happened.

That environmental issues were far from a peripheral concern to Pawlenty can be seen from his tenure as Chair of the National Governors Association, a position which he took over in 2007 from Janet Napolitano. Now the incoming Chair gets to designate an initiative which will be the chief focus of the Association for the ensuing year. Of the many issues from which he could have chosen, Pawlenty announced in a July 22, 2007 News Release that his would be Securing a Clean Energy Future and distributed a two-page brochure announcing the initiative where he claimed that “America is at a tipping point.” And in which he set out a litany of goals for the NGA any environmental activist could be proud of: “to make our nation a global leader in energy efficiency, clean technology, energy research and deployment of alternative fuels,” also including a call to action followed up later by 120 page report which called for “taking steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions” and “changing our current practices” to bring this about.

The initiative was initially announced by Gov. Pawlenty himself — see video at http://media.nga.org/2007/070912CI.wmv — in a speech during which he also bragged about environmentalist measures implemented in his own state which he thought led the way in this area, as he claimed the states must do since the Bush Administration’s environmental efforts were then, in his opinion, not aggressive enough.

So, in a way, Pawlenty’s recent withdrawal of support for cap-and-trade legislation is a bit of a red herring since he has advocated for some time environmental initiatives outside the halls of Congress. Rather than just challenging him on cap-and-trade, he should be asked in detail how much of his former NGA initiative he still endorses. That would get us closer to finding the real Tim Pawlenty on the environment.

Victor Morawski, professor at Coppin State University, is a Liberty Features Syndicated writer for Americans for Limited Government.

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