House Republican Rep. Ryan Costello criticized the Trump administration's decision to withdraw from the Paris climate change agreement because it will place the U.S. at a competitive disadvantage with China on clean energy development that will force Congress to ultimately respond.
President Trump's "unfortunate decision … to withdraw from the Paris accord" will require a response by Congress on the issue of greenhouse gas emissions "to chart an alternative course, or to reaffirm what the emission reductions should be in the next 15-20 years in our country," the Pennsylvania lawmaker said Monday.
Costello made the remarks during a conservative clean energy conference hosted by the ClearPath Foundation, which has the goal of making the Republican Party lead the clean energy policy debate. The conference's focus was on the "threat" of ceding U.S. economic leadership to China on energy, where Costello said, "China is cleaning our clock."
Costello is one of more than a dozen Republicans who has signed onto a GOP-led non-binding resolution in the House that recognizes climate change and calls for studying economically viable ways to address it.
A separate resolution, led by Democrats and introduced last month, recognizes climate change as "real," especially in the face of this year's record-breaking hurricane season and given Trump's decision to leave the climate change deal. Scientists say the intensity of this year's storms may be caused by the Earth getting warmer.
Costello emphasized the need for clean energy innovation, which he said will require a national "long-term strategy" to secure investment in advanced forms of energy.
"Centered on the question of whether or not China is winning the clean energy innovation race, and as that question is asked the answer from my perspective is yes," Costello said. "They are winning the clean energy innovation race."
In the meantime, “we are losing an incredible opportunity to be a global leader," Costello added.
“Folks used to say that the U.S. electricity system was the most sophisticated machine in the world,” Clear Path Executive Director Rich Powell said at the event. “Unfortunately that is no longer true."
In the 1990s, China began to build a power plant fleet that is "nearly twice the size of the U.S. fleet," Powell said.
A huge part of that fleet was coal power plants, he said. China was able to quickly ramp up a system of building coal plants that are much more efficient than those in the United States. Now, the world is waiting to see if China can use that same system of manufacturing coal plants to build out renewable and other cleaner sources of energy.
ClearPath held the conference on clean energy as Trump tours Asia this week.
The group wants to make sure that advanced technologies and innovation aren’t overlooked in Trump’s agenda, as the president this week will likely discuss the increased demand for U.S. oil, coal, and natural gas exports, especially in Asia.
ClearPath supports innovative energy technologies, but that does not include wind and solar energy. Rather, it supports nuclear power, carbon capture for coal, energy storage, efficient natural gas power plants and hydropower.
China is building a fleet of state-of-the-art nuclear power plants, while similar plants that have been under construction in the U.S. for a decade may never open amid bankruptcies and low natural gas prices that are making nuclear and coal plants less economical in the United States.