The Energy 202: Older and younger GOP voters don't agree on climate change

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THE LIGHTBULB

Democrats and Republicans are deeply divided on not just what to do about human-caused climate change — and whether it even exists. 

But there exists a lesser-known yet probably more important cleavage when it comes to defining the climate positions of future elected GOP officials. It is the gap between older and younger GOP voters.

According to a new survey released by the Pew Research Center on Monday, millennial GOP voters — those born between 1981 and 1996 — disagree with their older partisan counterparts across a range of energy and environmental issues. Younger Republicans disagree with their older partisan counterparts on the extent to which climate change is already affecting the world.

This new survey, and others, suggest that tomorrow's Republican Party, writ large, will think and talk about climate change in a starkly different way from today's GOP — whose leader, President Trump, along with many Republican members of Congress, have repeatedly dismissed the findings of climate science as a hoax.

But the shift will probably fall short of bringing the GOP into perfect alignment with Democrats on climate change, if the Pew study is any indication. Republicans, both young and old, distrust the government to solve the problem.

According to the survey, about 45 percent of younger Republican voters say they see some of the effects of global climate change in their communities, whereas only a third of older GOP voters feel the same way. A majority of GOP millennials — 59 percent — said they see at least some effect of climate change somewhere in the United States.

Similarly, 36 percent of GOP voters say the planet is warming because of human activity — a position supported by the vast majority of the scientific community. Only half that percentage of baby boomers in the GOP, born between 1946 and 1964, said the same to surveyors.

On energy issues, Republican millennials are vastly less supportive than the older generation of GOP voters of expanding coal mining (43 percent vs. 71 percent), hydraulic fracturing or "fracking" (47 percent vs. 68 percent) and offshore oil and natural gas drilling (44 percent vs. 75 percent).

While many political pundits think young voters are more motivated by climate change, that extra enthusiasm is really only seen among Republicans, according to Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, who has conducted his own separate surveys on U.S. opinion on climate change.

"There is a common wisdom out there that younger people care more about climate change than older people." Leiserowitz said. "We have looked and looked and looked and looked, and we've never found the evidence for that in our survey data."

"But one exception to that," he added, "is among Republicans, and that young Republicans tend to have more engaged views of climate change."

That gap between younger and older GOP voters, however, exists when it comes to the causes and consequences of climate change. But the rift narrows when GOP voters are asked what to do about global warming, Pew found.

Across generations, Republicans are skeptical of government policies aimed at mitigating the causes and effects of climate change. Millennial and baby boomer in the GOP generally agree, for example, that policies aiming at reducing the effects of climate change make no difference for the environment (44 percent vs. 45 percent). 

On this and other questions about policy solutions, "you're not seeing significant differences by generation among Republicans," said Cary Funk, Pew's director of science and society research and lead author of the report.

At the moment, many Republicans are hesitant to take proactive action to stem climate change in any aggressive way. “Climate change occurs no matter what,” Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), now House speaker, said in 2014. "The question is, can and should the federal government do something about it. And I would argue the federal government, with all its tax and regulatory schemes, can't."

That distrust of government intervention means climate policies from future Republican leaders will likely be quite different from Democratic ones.

They may look like a recent proposal from a group of senior GOP statesmen — including former treasury secretaries James A. Baker, Henry Paulson and George P. Shultz — to impose a national carbon tax in exchange for getting the government out of the way elsewhere by rolling back other emissions regulations. That tradeoff is popular with some economists, including Democrats like former National Economic Council director Lawrence H. Summers, while irking some environmental groups, like the Natural Resources Defense Council.

One of the areas of agreement between survey respondents of both parties was on the expansion of wind and solar power. Large majorities among both Democrats and Republicans favor building more wind turbine farms (91 percent and 79 percent) and solar panel farms (93 percent and 84 percent).

POWER PLAYS

— Drip... EPA chief Scott Pruitt requested and received round-the-clock security from his first day on the job, according to the agency’s inspector general. The revelation is notable because Pruitt has repeatedly insisted that decisions about his security detail were made because of threats made against him while he was serving in his EPA role, The Post’s Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis report.

...drip... The EPA and the White House looked to block the release of a federal study on a nationwide water-contamination crisis after an administration aide said it would lead to a “public relations nightmare,” Politico reports, citing newly disclosed emails. The study would assess a class of toxic chemicals in water supplies near military bases, chemical plants and other sites and would reveal that “the chemicals endanger human health at a far lower level than EPA has previously called safe,” Politico reports. But three months after one Trump aide warned of negative public reaction to the report, the draft study is still unpublished and the administration says it has no scheduled release date.

...drip: The opinion pages of many right-leaning news outlets, like the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal, are backing Pruitt despite the scandals. Bucking that trend on Monday was the Weekly Standard, which wrote in an editorial that “the time has come for him to go.”

While they agree with rolling back “costly and deleterious environmental regulations,” the Standard editors write "the EPA administrator has become a constant distraction. Trump seems to relish distractions — but distractions of his own creation, and he didn’t create this one."

— “What if another one comes?”: At the end of the week, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will depart from Puerto Rico and end its recovery efforts, even as thousands of Puerto Ricans remain in the dark eight months after Hurricane Maria hit the island. About two weeks later, another hurricane season will begin. “The crucial question is whether Puerto Rico’s power grid can withstand even a minor storm,” the New York Times reports. “The answer is probably not."

— Wounded pigs and dehydrated ducks: Researchers at the Agriculture Department have euthanized healthy kittens, killed dozens of birds and neglected injured pigs, according to agency inspection reports reviewed by The Post's Caitlin Dewey. “The incidents, which took place at a dozen USDA laboratories during the course of 2017, have drawn new scrutiny to the agency’s research agenda — and its oversight of animal welfare standards,” Dewey writes. “USDA, which operates 41 agricultural research labs, says it adheres to stringent animal welfare standards and conducts research that is critical to industry and to human health, adding in a statement that it ‘complies with best management practices in animal research.’” But Dewey notes animal welfare groups are urging lawmakers to increase oversight of animal research programs.

THERMOMETER

— Troubling link found between pollution exposure in pregnancy and high blood pressure in children: New research has found children of mothers who were exposed to higher levels of fine particulate pollution were at a 61 percent higher risk of elevated blood pressure. The study, published Monday in the American Heart Association's journal Hypertension, assessed 1,293 mothers and children in the Boston area. Pollution levels were determined by location and nearby EPA monitors monitoring air quality. “There is a large body of research — the EPA cites thousands of studies — that shows the severe impact of fine particulate matter on human health, particularly the respiratory system,” The Post’s Ariana Eunjung Cha writes. “But this is among the first to show that a pregnant mother's exposure may harm her offspring.”

— Old Arctic ice is disappearing: This past winter, there was a record low amount in the Arctic Ocean of ice older than five years, and by the middle of the century, there could be no ice at all there during the summer, the New York Times reports.

That’s because with continued warming, the older, thicker, more resilient ice is melting, which means the newer ice is even more vulnerable to rising temperatures. “Some of the new ice melts each summer, but some of it lingers to grow thicker over the following winter, forming second-year ice,” per the report. “Some ice used to last more than a decade …. Today, Arctic sea ice is mostly first-year ice."

— History as told by the ice: A glacier in central Greenland is being used in a study that will use lead emissions trapped in the ice to uncover information about the economic history of ancient Rome. “The results, published in Monday’s issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, show a fluctuating line whose peaks and troughs correspond to salient events in Roman history,” per the New York Times. “Lead emissions rose in periods of peace and prosperity, such as the Pax Romana, which ran from 27 B.C. to 180 A.D. and dropped during the civil wars that preceded the Pax and the rise to power of the emperor Augustus.”

OIL CHECK

— This could be the biggest advance in aluminum production in 130 years: Apple announced a collaboration in Canada with major U.S. aluminum producer Alcoa and multinational mining giant Rio Tinto that “could change how it gets one of the key components that makes its ubiquitous gadgets look so sleek — aluminum,” The Post’s Chris Mooney reports. The collaboration will fund a technology that could remove carbon dioxide emissions from the high-temperature smelting process that extracts the elemental metal from its ore. Aluminum production accounts for about 1 percent of total global carbon emissions. “We are proud to be part of this ambitious new project, and look forward to one day being able to use aluminum produced without direct greenhouse gas emissions in the manufacturing of our products,” chief executive Tim Cook said in a statement.

— Shell's green bets: In order to appease investors concerned about the company's contributions to climate change, oil giant Shell "has begun allocating up to $2 billion per year — out of a capital budget of up to $30 billion — to electric power and other alternative energy," the New York Times reports. But the chief executive of Shell, which does not plan to stop extracting oil anytime soon, admitted in an interview with the Times that "[p]eople did not trust us,” he said. He even related a time when his 9-year-old daughter came home from school in tears. “She had heard that the Earth was warming up and being destroyed by people like Shell,” CEO Ben van Beurden said.

— The road ahead for Tesla: Tesla’s chief executive Elon Musk told employees the company is in the midst of a “thorough reorganization” as it deals with ongoing production problems, departures of top staff members and two recent crashes. “To ensure that Tesla is well prepared for the future, we have been undertaking a thorough reorganization of our company,” Musk said in a memo, the Wall Street Journal reports. “As part of the reorg, we are flattening the management structure to improve communication, combining functions where sensible and trimming activities that are not vital to the success of our mission.”

DAYBOOK

Today

  • The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee holds a hearing to consider the nomination of Aimee Kathryn Jorjani to be Chair of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation.
  • Axios holds an event on Infrastructure Week.

Coming Up

  • EPA chief Scott Pruitt testifies before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies on Wednesday.
  • The House Science, Space and Technology Committee holds a hearing on technology to address climate change on Wednesday.
  • The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources will hold a legislative hearing on Wednesday.
  • The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on the Environment holds a hearing on “Legislation Addressing New Source Review Permitting Reform” on Wednesday.
  • The National Press Club holds an event with former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar on Wednesday.
  • The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation holds an event on manufacturing at the Energy Department on Wednesday.
  • The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee holds a legislative hearing on America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 on Thursday.
  • The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Federal Lands holds a legislative hearing on Thursday.
  • The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans holds an oversight hearing on Thursday.
  • The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission holds a meetingon Thursday.
  • U.S. Energy Association holds an event on a carbon sequestration partnership on Thursday.
  • The Center for Strategic and International Studies holds a conversation with Total S.A. CEO Patrick Pouyanné on Thursday.

EXTRA MILEAGE

—Does Jupiter's icy moon have water plumes? The Post's Sarah Kaplan reports on new evidence that giant jets of water are spouting more than 100 miles off the surface of the moon Europa: