Augusta Free Press

Morgan Griffith: Paris Agreement revisited

I opposed American adoption of the Paris climate agreement from the moment it was introduced. The United States already led the way in energy innovation, using all the resources we possess to produce cleaner, cheaper energy. The Paris agreement imposed steep, unrealistic cuts to American emissions while letting big polluters like China continue to pump out greenhouse gases. Submitting to the agreement sacrificed our ability to act in the United States’ best interests with nothing to be gained in return.

So I applauded President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the agreement last June. Two recent newspaper stories provide more evidence of the pact’s flaws and that withdrawal was best for our country.

The Washington Post lamented the failure of many countries to meet the goals of the agreement (saw that one coming – the agreement was unrealistic from the beginning).

In the case of Germany, greenhouse gas emissions rose in 2015 and 2016, even as it pledged to cut them by 40 percent below their 1990 levels before 2020. The European Union as a whole, according to their own environmental agency, looks unlikely to hit their target of a 40 percent cut below 1990 levels by 2030 (again, this was foreseeable).

On the one hand, these countries cannot achieve goals that were not realistic in the first place. On the other hand, the accord only requires China to start reducing its emissions by 2030, letting it increase them until then.

The terms of the Paris accord were more likely to suppress U.S. economic growth than limit world greenhouse gas emissions.

Is there a double standard in how some countries panned our exit from Paris while falling short in their own commitments to it? If there is, I won’t complain, because as a Washington Times story on February 21 noted:

“As France, Germany and Italy chastised President Trump for rejecting the Paris climate accord in June and mocked the U.S. for turning its back on the environment, their nations were busy importing record amounts of American coal.”

The numbers provided in the report are striking. In 2017 the United States exported 13 million more short tons of coal to Europe through September than it had in the year 2016.

Looking at individual countries over that time through September 2017 as compared to the previous year, France doubled its imports of American coal and Germany and Italy each increased their imports by nearly a million short tons.

These countries aren’t the only ones importing more of our coal. Asia has also proven to be a growing customer, and our total exports were up by 95 million short tons last year as compared to the previous year.

Paris or no Paris, I’m glad these countries have decided to buy more coal mined in the United States. I hope they recognize that our country has plenty to contribute without participating in the agreement. The “energy renaissance,” as Energy Secretary Rick Perry called it in a Subcommittee on Energy hearing last fall, can mean reliable power to benefit not just our own country but others as well.

Further, buying energy from us likely means buying less energy from unfriendly powers such as Russia. Strong American energy exports diminish the influence of antagonists to our own country and to the West.

Free from international bureaucrats and arbitrary regulations, the United States can power the world. Free to develop resources as we best see fit, Americans can strive for energy that is cheaper, more reliable, and yes, greener.

Greener, because the world is not going to stop using coal, whether it be American, Australian, or Indian coal. Hopefully, we can reach a bipartisan agreement to find ways to burn coal more cleanly instead of trying to destroy the American coal industry.

If you have questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to contact my office.  You can call my Abingdon office at 276-525-1405 or my Christiansburg office at 540-381-5671. To reach my office via email, please visit my website at www.morgangriffith.house.gov.