Recently, I sacrificed an hour of a beautiful spring evening to a teleconference by Rep. Tom Tiffany (R) who represents Wisconsin’s 7 District, which covers the northern part of the state, and Rep. Pete Stauber (R), who represents Minnesota’s 8th District, which covers the Iron Range in the north east quarter of the state. Their topic: “American energy independence,” featuring H.R.1, the newly passed Lower Energy Costs Act, which the environmentally conscious among us call the Polluters Over People Act. 

Reps. Pete Stauber (R-Minn.) and Tom Tiffany (R-Wis.) are both strong supporters of Enbridge Inc., the Canadian-based pipeline company that has been replacing its old Line 3 and Line 5 pipelines, both of which transverse their districts. Enbridge Line 3 and Line 5 carry oil to Chemical Valley in Sarnia, Ontario, which is home to more than 60 chemical plants and oil refineries that line Lake Huron. (Ilene MacDonald / Alamy Stock Photo)

This recent House Republican legislation earns that label because, according to Tiffany, it would “speed up” oil and gas production and “slow down” incentives for electric vehicles and green energy production while repealing provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act that regulate carbon emissions. Reps. Tiffany and Stauber gassed on that easier and faster permitting of oil drilling and coal mining will guarantee our God-given right to a future of cheap, abundant, all-American energy.

While listening to their nonsense, my first thought was there will be no future for America or anyone else if we don’t get serious about curtailing this climate crisis. Don’t these “representatives” realize that 71% of Americans want Congress to fight climate change, with younger people (ages 18-29) most likely to say it should be a high priority? Even 61% of Republicans under age 50 want their representatives to support efforts to fight climate change. But then I remembered these guys are responding to the money Big Oil bought them with, not representing the people who elected them. 

UN: Multiple Options to Reduce Greenhouse Gases

As I listened to them brag about their new bill, I went to the United Nations website and found a 2023 report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that said nearly half of the world’s population lives in regions highly vulnerable to climate change, and deaths from floods, droughts and storms are now 15 times higher in these regions than they were 10 years ago. Thankfully, the report also said “there are multiple, feasible and effective options to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to human-caused climate change, and they are available now… If we act now, we can still secure a livable, sustainable future for all.”

The UN is pushing world governments to use science to slow down fossil-fuel development and speed up production of green energy. Exactly the opposite direction that Tiffany, Stauber and the Republicans in Congress are advocating. But that’s no surprise, as they show us on a daily basis that their horizons are small, and their vision is limited. 

How small and how limited? First, neither Tiffany nor Stauber ever mentioned the word “climate” in the hour they lied about our energy future. Second, it didn’t occur to them to mention the wave of new jobs becoming available as our country’s green-energy sector emerges. Third, it appears they believe global energy competition is all about oil, gas and coal.

Energy Experts: The Future is Green

Despite the Tiffany’s and Stauber’s laments about lost jobs in mining and drilling, most experts agree that the world’s energy future is green. This is where energy jobs will be. 

Energy park with solar panels and wind mills
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistice, wind-turbine jobs are expected to grow 68% and pay more than $56,000 per year, and solar jobs will grow 52% and pay nearly $48,000 annually. (H.P. Gruesen)

The Department of Energy reports that employment in the electric-power-generation sector grew in 2021, led by solar and wind. Jobs in carbon-reducing vehicle manufacturing grew an astonishing 25%. Hybrid-electric; battery-electric, plug-in-hybrid, and hydrogen-fuel-cell manufacturing now account for a significant amount of motor-vehicle and component-parts manufacturing, the fastest-growing sector of fuel-related jobs. 

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports wind-turbine technicians and solar-photovoltaic installers will be among the fastest-growing occupations through 2030. Wind-turbine jobs are expected to grow 68% and pay more than $56,000 per year, and solar jobs will grow 52% and pay nearly $48,000 annually. 

While Tiffany and Stauber claimed the United States is losing its worldwide energy influence and is more dependent than ever on foreign oil, the reality is that the global energy crisis has triggered unprecedented momentum in renewables. The International Energy Agency predicts the world will add as much renewable power in the next five years as it did in the past 20. Worldwide growth of renewable power is set to nearly double in five years, overtaking coal as the largest source of electricity generation by 2025. This is 30% higher than the amount of growth forecast just a year ago, illustrating how quickly governments (except U.S. House Republicans) are shifting policy toward renewables. 

According to the Department of Energy, in 2021, 40% of total energy jobs supported the Biden Administration’s goal of a net-zero-emissions economy by 2050. Jobs in green energy (electric and hybrid vehicles; solar and wind energy; energy efficiency; and transmission, distribution and storage of renewable energy) increased by nearly 150,000 in 2021. Meanwhile, jobs in petroleum, coal and nuclear declined, with petroleum losing 31,600, the most of any energy sector, and coal losing 7,100, according to Forbes.

House Republicans see oil, gas and coal fueling our energy future (not to mention destroying our planet, which Tiffany and Stauber didn’t); the facts prove them wrong.

$11 Billion for Rural Green Energy

While Republicans are intent on not only preserving but actually “speeding up” outdated energy policy and “slowing down” adoption of green energy that will curtail the climate crisis, the Biden Administration is doing what the UN says is possible and most Americans believe is necessary. The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced in May that it is offering $11 billion in grants and loans for rural energy and utility providers to bring affordable, reliable, clean energy to their communities, which will represent the “single largest investment in rural electrification since the Rural Electrification Act 1936.” The money comes from the Inflation Reduction Act, much of which the House Republican bill would repeal.

I wonder if it’s possible to educate Republicans in Congress that growth in renewables is inevitable as the fuel of the future for heating our communities, powering our vehicles and saving our climate. Probably not. Most of them are beholden to the oil and gas lobby. For example, according to Open Secrets, during their short careers in the House, Reps. Stauber and Tiffany respectively have taken in $218,319 and $37,540 from the oil & gas industry. Thankfully, the Senate will never pass their disgraceful Polluters Over People Act.

Thomas Gahm

Tom is a retired marketing and communications executive from St. Paul, Minnesota. He and his wife Marilyn live on Deer Lake near Spooner, Wisconsin. He is an active volunteer with several community organizations and is passionate about the outdoors.