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Barrasso: Trump climate rollback helps U.S. as an energy superpower

March 28, 2017 at 6:40 PM EDT
One of President Trump's major campaign promises was to roll back his predecessor's plans for coping with climate change, a pledge he began to fulfill by signing an executive order that targets such regulations. Judy Woodruff gets perspective from Sen. John Barrasso, a Republican who represents Wyoming, the country’s top coal-producing state.
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Editor’s Note: Sen. John Barrasso was incorrectly identified as the chair of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee; he is a member of the committee.

JUDY WOODRUFF: One of the major promises of President Trump’s campaign was his pledge to roll back much of his predecessor’s plans for coping with climate change. Today’s executive order laid out a path for doing that.

We invited the administrator of the EPA on the air tonight, but he declined our invitation.

Let’s hear from a leading lawmaker who supports these moves. He’s Republican Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming, the country’s number one coal-producing state. He chairs the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

I talked to him a short time ago. And I began by asking how these moves will change the American energy landscape.

SEN. JOHN BARRASSO, R-Wyo.: Well, I think it was a bold and decisive action by Donald Trump.

I think is going to be helpful to energy independence for America, energy security for our country, and certainly for jobs. That, to me, is the key driver.

When I think of energy — I’m from an energy state, Wyoming — I think of energy security for our country, economic growth and environmental stewardship. And that’s how we have used over the 125 years that Wyoming has been a state.

JUDY WOODRUFF: You mentioned jobs. As you know, a number of skeptics are saying, well, many of those jobs just are not coming back. It’s due to factors other than what the EPA did, the environmental rules have been.

How many jobs do you think will come back due to this?

SEN. JOHN BARRASSO: Well, I think, across the country and over the next number of years, I’m talking hundreds of thousands, if not millions of jobs in the energy sector.

Look, energy is called the master resource for a reason. It powers our country, it powers the economy, our military. Energy is a force multiplier. It’s an instrument of power. And we can get a lot more done, I believe, with a barrel of oil than you can with a barrel of a gun.

So, energy can also be used as a geopolitical weapon. We need it all. We need the renewable energy. And we need the non-renewable energy. And we can’t kid ourselves to say that we’re going to be able to power this country and this economy with just solar panels and windmills.

JUDY WOODRUFF: You also mentioned energy independence, but, again, I hear skeptics saying, well, the U.S. is already moving briskly in the direction of energy independence, that that’s already happening.

SEN. JOHN BARRASSO: And we want to do more of that. You take a look how Vladimir Putin uses energy as a weapon, a geopolitical weapon.

When we export energy, we export American influence overseas. As I travel around the world, I know that there are people that want to buy energy from America. I have had that discussion in Japan, in Taiwan. I have had that discussion with our NATO friends. They want what we have in abundance. And we are a world energy superpower. And after today, we’re going to be able to act more like that.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Senator, what also — also, let me ask you about the argument being made that people in the energy industry realize that it’s fiscally responsible to have clean energy, that that is what the American people want, and that by doing what the president is doing today, he’s turning the clock back, and that the American people, it’s not something the American people really want?

SEN. JOHN BARRASSO: Well, the American people want affordable energy.

And clean energy is a big part of that. If you take a look at what’s happened in the United States with emissions, our emissions have been dropping over the last 15 years. They are down significantly. We don’t see that in China. We don’t see that in India. But America has been leading the way in reduction of emissions, new technology.

We are, I believe, very good stewards of the land, of the environment. We do it in Wyoming. We have done it for a long, long time, and we’re going to continue to do it in the future, because that’s who people on the ground want to make those decisions, want to live in clean places, and that’s the way we do it at home.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But what you’re saying is, emissions are improving, they are being reduced. But won’t some of these changes the president is making today, by doing away with a number of restrictions and regulations, move the energy in the opposite direction, away from clean energy?

SEN. JOHN BARRASSO: No, I would say just the opposite. It’s the technology and the innovation that we have had here at home that has resulted in these reductions in emissions.

Remember that President Obama’s clean climate plan, that’s something that has been stayed in the courts. And he’s made promises that even the environmental folks who look at this from a scientific standpoint say the impacts of something like the Paris accord would be over the next 100 years negligible.

So, I think it’s important to focus on our economy, on jobs, on getting America back to work. I was in Wyoming just yesterday. Last week, I was in a little mini-mart store, and somebody came in guy and said to the guy in front of me in line, how are things going? He said, great, we’re hiring again.

Those are good signs for our country that the economy is picking up, moving ahead. And energy is a very big part of that. But we need it all, we need the renewable, we need the non-renewable, we need the nuclear, we need it all, coal, oil, gas, uranium. We need it all. And we’re going to use it all to power our economy, as well as the country.

JUDY WOODRUFF: One final thing, Senator. The point was made that these changes the president wants to make are not going to happen immediately. It’s going to take months, even years to really largely or completely undo the clean energy moves by the Obama administration.

How long do you think it will take for this to take effect?

SEN. JOHN BARRASSO: Well, I think the impact in terms of the optimism that result of what the president did today is going to be immediate, because what we know is the regulations by the Obama administration, they have been very expensive, time-consuming, burdensome.

And to know that that relief is coming and those very expensive regulations have been lifted is going to be, I think, really a good thing, and people are going to feel that. When you take a look at what’s happened with this decision today, it’s this giant step forward and we’re basically just try to get back into balance.

We all want a clean environment. We want to make energy as clean as we can as fast as we can in ways that don’t raise cost for American families. President Obama’s approach has been to add to the expense.

And I believe that President Trump’s approach has been to add to our economic freedom and opportunity.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming, we thank you very much.

SEN. JOHN BARRASSO: Thanks, Judy. Thanks for having me.

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