Over the weekend, presumptive Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney chose Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan as his running mate. In naming the Tea Party darling as his Vice-Presidential candidate, Romney hopes to spark conservative enthusiasm from the hardline segment of the GOP base. Romney’s choice will also highlight the stark differences between the Republicans and the Democrats on spending, taxes, and ideologies.
Ryan, 42, is chairman of the House Budget Committee. He is best known for drafting a controversial budget proposal, known as the Path to Prosperity. It seeks to tackle the problem of the entitlement programs that threaten to bankrupt America, as it struggles in the lingering aftermath of the 2008 recession. Ryan is vehemently opposed to gay rights, wants to cut many government programs that help the poor, and create sweeping changes to Medicaid and Medicare.
Not surprisingly however, the Wisconsin Congressman has received A-grades from corporate America, the National Rifle Association, and pro-life campaigners.
Ryan’s tough stance is not just apparent when it comes to budget cuts, gay rights and crime. His thoughts on the environmental issues won’t earn him high marks from climate-change and environmental activists either. Many of them are outraged that Romney would choose a “climate denier” as his running mate. In the past, Ryan has voted to eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) limits on greenhouse gases and cancel a ban on incandescent light bulbs. But perhaps one of Ryan’s most-telling actions was his vote of support in 2011 to expedite the consideration and approval of the Keystone Oil Pipeline.
The Keystone XL is a pipeline system designed to transport synthetic crude oil from the Athabasca oil sands region in Alberta, Canada to multiple destinations in the United States. The proposal has faced angry criticism from environmentalists and some members of the U.S. Congress. In 2010, the U.S. Department of State extended the deadline for federal agencies to decide if the pipeline is in the national interest. In November, 2011, President Barack Obama postponed the final decision on much of the proposed extension until 2013.
Environmental activists across North America have been furious with Paul Ryan’s stance on the issues. Over the years, he has voted to eliminate White House climate advisers, to block the U.S. Department of Agriculture from preparing for climate disasters, and to eliminate the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency.
In a December 2009 op-ed piece, Ryan made a reference to a scandal, which involved hacked emails at the University of East Anglia Climatic Research Unit. He accused climatologists of a “perversion of the scientific method, where data were manipulated to support a predetermined conclusion” in order to “intentionally mislead the public on the issue of climate change.” He also went on to say that pushing economic restraint in the name of fighting global climate change has been a tough sell in his community because much of his region is “buried under snow”.
Apart from riling climate change activists, the wind farm industry is also bristling at the thought of Ryan as America’s next Vice-President. The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) has reported a surge in new wind farms this past year. The spike happened as a result of developers rushing to complete projects before the possible demise of the U.S. government’s Production Tax Credit at the end of 2012. But many wind energy firms are becoming more concerned about the future of that tax incentive. That’s because Romney’s Republican camp has confirmed that if Romney is elected — he would not extend the PTC when it lapses at the end of 2012.
Given the GOP’s record on the environment, it’s no surprise angry and mocking tweets began pouring in when Ryan was announced as Romney’s pick.
One prominent tweet came from 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben. He wrote, “Meet Paul Ryan—it snowed in my district, so let’s not do anything about climate change”.
Here’s a couple more:
and by “wonder how Ryan feels about ending fossil fuel subsidies,” I mean, “we know exactly how Ryan think$ about fo$$il fuel
— RLMiller (@RL_Miller) August 11, 2012
GOP VP Nominee Paul Ryan: Science Denier, Fiscal Fraud bit.ly/Qoyggb
— Miles Grant (@MilesGrant) August 11, 2012
On Ryan’s website, he does note that “strong conservation programs” are important to him. But he moans that federal spending in the area has climbed during the Obama administration.
Ryan’s emergence as the Republican VP candidate comes as the U.S. suffers through its hottest month ever recorded. This is also the month when the “godfather of global warming”, NASA scientist James Hansen, blamed past heat waves directly on climate change.
Photo by Tony Alter