Last week in this space we asked you to consider Iowa Senator Steve “The Racist” King as one of the top ten dimwits in Congress, an anti-immigration nationalist who was Trump before Trump was Trump. This week, we’re sending up Oklahoma Senator James M. “Climate Denier” Inhofe for your consideration.
Trump was already on board with Inhofe on the environment way before his presidency. In 2012, Trump the real estate developer (@realDonaldTrump) tweeted “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive. 2:15 PM · Nov 6, 2012 · Twitter Web Client.”
Inhofe doesn’t blame global warming on the Chinese; he mostly blames scientists and believes they are driven by their desire for an international tribunal that would override U.S. sovereignty. In June 2012 he published The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future, in association with WorldNetDaily Books, an online publication well-known for specializing in promoting extremist far-right conspiracy theories. The book is a culmination of Inhofe’s decades-long campaign against climate science.
He introduced Congress to the “hoax” concept in 2003. “Wake up, America. With all the hysteria, all the fear, all the phony science, could it be that manmade global warming is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people? I believe it is,” he said during a two-hour long speech on the Senate floor. Inhofe’s “evidence” came from scientists who were and continue to be funded by ExxonMobil.
In 1992, when he was in the U.S. House, he referred to the Environmental Protection Agency during a congressional hearing as a “Gestapo bureaucracy” for its regulatory powers. Apparently, no one was outraged about that back then. Or probably most Republicans agreed with him because after Inhofe went to the Senate in 1994, they selected him to chair the Environment and Public Works Committee, which oversees the EPA. Inhofe chaired the committee from 2003-2007, for George W. Bush’s second term, and again from 2015-2017, following the 2014 midterm elections when GOP had the majority in both houses of Congress.
Inhofe is still on the committee, but he had to step down from the chairmanship due to term limits. He was reelected to his fourth term in the Senate in 2014 when he was 80 years old. Along the way, he ran a side hustle grabbing headlines with one-liners on climate change denial.
In 2005, Inhofe caught the imagination of writer Charles Pierce when he proclaimed global warming is “the second-largest hoax ever played on the American people, after the separation of church and state.” In 2006, Inhofe said environmentalists spread the Big Lie of global warming using Third Reich strategy: “You say something over and over and over and over again, and people will believe it, and that’s their strategy… A hot summer has nothing to do with global warming. Let’s keep in mind it was just three weeks ago that people were saying, ‘Wait a minute; it is unusually cool.’”
We all laughed in 2009 when Inhofe told the press at a climate conference in Copenhagen that the scientific consensus around man-made global warming “started in the United Nations, and the ones in the United States who really grab ahold of this is the Hollywood elite.”
Ahh, but all good things must come to an end. In a 2012 interview on the Rachel Maddow show, Inhofe made the mistake of saying “I thought [climate change] must be true until I found out what it cost.” Like the tobacco industry had the most to lose – profit-wise – from cancer research, the oil and gas industry has a lot to lose from the science of climate change. Inhofe has long argued that climate change threatens people’s livelihoods. That part’s no hoax. Everyone knows it, even oil and gas companies recognize they need to be part of a new, green economy if they want survive. They and their paid politicos still obstruct any progress that manages to get through though.
Enter now disgraced Scott Pruitt, Trump’s appointee to lead the EPA. Pruitt is a close personal friend of Inhofe and a self-described “leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda.” As Oklahoma Attorney General, Pruitt sued the EPA 14 times over various regulatory actions, including former President Obama’s Clean Power Plan.
The Clean Power Plan, which the EPA finalized and published in October 2015, is the first-ever national standard limiting carbon emissions from power plants. Then President Obama used it as evidence of U.S. commitment to the Paris Agreement on climate change.
As EPA administrator, Pruitt was in a position to repeal the plan, and he announced EPA’s intention to do so in October 2017. In June 2017, Trump announced the U.S. would exit the Paris Agreement, though the terms of the agreement will prevent a formal withdrawal until 2020.
As for the Clean Power Plan, the EPA is in the process of developing replacement regulations for limiting power plant emissions, which could take two years or more. Oklahomans said they expect repeal of the plan to have little impact in the state. Gas and electric utilities there had already begun modifying or closing coal-fired plants that wouldn’t be in compliance with the EPA’s Regional Haze and Mercury and Air Toxics Standards previously set by the EPA, a rule that was unsuccessfully challenged in court by then AG Pruitt.