As we struggle to keep pace with our reviews of the ever-widening 2016 presidential field, we are ready to talk about one of the latest contenders: Bobby Jindal. Jindal is the current governor of Louisiana and a former member of Congress. When it comes to energy and climate policy, the governor has done some hemming and hawing, but it's clear his allegiance lies with the Big Polluter Agenda and those who deny the need to act.
This Should Be Easy For Jindal
There are plenty of reasons to think Jindal might be particularly concerned about climate change given the state he governs and his own personal beliefs.
As the leader of Louisiana, he knows that memories of Hurricane Katrina still haunt residents of New Orleans. Effects of the BP oil spill still reverberate along the Gulf Coast. And the potential for future climate-related disaster is acute with predicted rises in sea level that would swap the coast, and science telling us that hurricanes will intensify while saltwater intrusion could harm the state's agricultural industry. The costs could be in the billions as soon as 2030.
As a Catholic, Jindal has surely heard Pope Francis's calls to act on climate change as a moral issue. As Pope Francis said in his recent encyclical on the environment:
"Climate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic, political and for the distribution of goods. It represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day."
The need to act to protect Jindal's home state and the world's poor has never been clearer.
Yet, despite the strong case for action on climate change in Louisiana, Bobby Jindal just doesn't see the big deal. Jindal has been a leader of the "I'm not a scientist" camp of lame defenses. Last September he said:
"It's not controversial to say that human activity is contributing in some way. The question is how serious that is....I'd leave it to the scientists to decide how much, what it means, and what the consequences are.... Let the scientists debate and figure that out."
Previously, he took it a step farther. According to reporting in the National Journal, in a meeting at the Heritage Foundation suggesting that the campaign to act on climate change is some sort of vast liberal conspiracy:
At Heritage, Jindal said that climate change is a "Trojan horse" for the Left's plans to try and reshape the economy and people's lives to their liking. "It's an excuse for the government to come in and tell us what kind of homes we live in, what kind of cars we drive, what kind of lifestyles we can enjoy," he said.
Note to Jindal: two-thirds of voters, including nearly half of Republicans surveyed, are more likely to vote for a candidate who acknowledges human-induced global warming is happening. Seventy-eight percent of voters think the government should limit global warming pollution. Americans are looking for leadership, not conspiracy theories.
Jindal has done all he can as a state official to block President Obama and the Environmental Protection Agency from moving forward on actions that would limit harmful carbon pollution. As governor, Jindal's Department of Natural Resources wrote against EPA's finding that carbon pollution was a threat to public health. Jindal erroneously claimed that reducing carbon pollution would have "devastating consequences" for Louisiana's economy and would result in "significantly higher energy prices." In fact, the legislation being considered at the time would have cost a mere postage stamp per day and both it and the Clean Power Plan being considered now have far greater economic benefits than costs.
In addition, Jindal has griped about FEMA taking steps to ensure that climate change considerations are part of disaster planning. Jindal called this common-sense step, which will save money and save lives, a way to "force acquiescence to their left-wing ideology."
(An aside: as a member of the House of Representatives, Jindal uncharacteristically voted in favor of a nonbinding resolution that endorsed the idea of mandatory limits on carbon pollution. In the context of his otherwise consistent opposition to climate action and his abysmal 6% LCV score, you almost wonder if this vote was a mistake.)
Drill, Baby, Drill
Well, we know Jindal doesn't want to act on climate change. What does he want to do when it comes to our nation's energy policy? Last September, Jindal released his blueprint for American energy policy and it fully echoes the Big Polluter Agenda. His top priority is more drilling for fossil fuels, including in our offshore areas and on public lands including in sensitive Arctic ecosystems, and building the Keystone XL pipeline to transport dirty tar sands oil. He also focuses on what he calls "eliminating burdensome regulations," which, in my experience, is usually code for "eliminating public health protections." In calling for "fundamental reforms" to bedrock environmental laws like the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the Clean Air Act, and Clean Water Act, Jindal makes clear that protecting public health and the environment will not be his priority.
Time to Wake Up
When voters go to the polls next November, they will be looking for leadership. Americans see the consequences of climate change unfolding before their eyes. Bobby Jindal has seen some of the worst effects up close. The leader of his faith is calling for action. Yet, he still denies the need to act. He should know better.