Congressional Candidates’ Views on Clean Energy, Climate Change: CA-Senate

This is the thirty-second article in a continuing series by the NRDC Action Fund on the environmental stances of candidates in key races around the country.  

California has long been the country’s leader in progressive clean energy and environmental policy. Perhaps unsurprisingly, California’s junior senator, three-term incumbent Barbara Boxer, has long been an environmental champion. This November, Boxer is being challenged by Carly Fiorina, Republican and former Chairman and Chief Executive Office of the Hewlett-Packard Company.

Boxer has earned a 92% career rating from the League of Conservation Voters (LCV), which means that she’s voted the right way on nearly every environmental issue scored by LCV during her tenure in the Senate. In 2007, Boxer assumed the chairmanship of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which is the primary committee that handles environmental legislation in the Senate. Her campaign website lists some key accomplishments during her time as EPW chair. Boxer’s top priority as Chair has been to “pass long-overdue legislation to make the United States the world’s leader in carbon reduction,” and she has led several efforts to move comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation that have been blocked by Senate obstructionists. It is no surprise that several leading environmental groups such as the Sierra Club and LCV have endorsed Boxer’s reelection effort.

In his endorsement, Sierra Club Chairman Carl Pope draws a stark contrast between Boxer and Fiorina: “While Senator Boxer is a proven leader in creating new clean energy jobs and protecting our environment, Carly Fiorina would take us backward. Fiorina’s skepticism about global warming and her support for new offshore oil drilling off our coast show just how out of touch she is with California voters.”

On the campaign trail, Fiorina has gained notoriety for flippantly calling global warming “the weather” in a campaign ad, and for doubting the overwhelming science of global warming. Not surprisingly, Fiorina also opposes legislation like the American Clean Energy and Security (ACES). Passed by the U.S. House in 2009, ACES was the first comprehensive clean energy and climate bill to ever pass a chamber of Congress. On her website, Fiorina cites a biased report from the Heritage Foundation claiming that climate legislation will “cost American families $2,872 every year.” Furthermore, she claims that a climate bill “will punish manufacturers and small-business owners and put the U.S. at a competitive disadvantage with nations like China and India.” She has even sided with dirty Texas oil companies to favor passing Proposition 23, which would overturn California’s climate law – the strongest such law in the nation.

Fiorina is wrong on all counts. According to the nonpartisan experts at the Congressional Budget Office, ACES will cost “about $175 per household” annually; a number which “does not include the economic benefits and other benefits of the reduction of [greenhouse gas] emissions.” Furthermore, CBO found that low-income households would see a “net benefit of about $40” per year. As to her jobs points, according to collaborative research by Yale University, the University of Illinois and University of California, ACES could create 1.9 million jobs nationally, 200,000 of which would be in California. Lastly, contrary to Fiorina’s claims, US inaction has already ceded a competitive advantage to China and India as these countries have taken steps to lead in the burgeoning clean energy economy.

The NRDC Action Fund believes that it is important for the public in general, and for the voters of specific states, to be aware of this information as they weigh their choices for November.