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Congressional Candidates’ Views on Clean Energy, Climate Change: OH-01

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

Today, we examine Ohio’s 1st Congressional District, which encompasses Cincinnati and parts of nearby suburbs. Cincinnati is home to the Reds, but in the House it’s represented by the self-described "raging moderate," Democrat Steve Driehaus. A longtime member of the Ohio legislature, in 2008, Driehaus won election to the House seat his father unsuccessfully sought 40 years ago. This November he is being challenged by former Republican Congressman Steve Chabot, whom Driehaus unseated in 2008 despite being outspent by nearly $1 million.

When a district is home to the company that makes products like "Mr. Clean," one would hope that its Congressional representative would champion clean energy. Rep. Driehaus has been a reliable environmental champion. In his first year in Congress, he received a perfect score from the League of Conservation Voters, meaning that he cast a pro-environmental vote at every opportunity. Most notably, Driehaus voted for the historic American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES), the first global warming bill to ever pass a chamber of Congress. After the vote, Driehaus said, “Ohio has the resources and workforce to be at the cutting edge as we move our nation toward a clean energy economy, and [ACES] will promote investments that will bring the potential of clean energy development into our community…This bill will help us end our addiction to imported oil, which threatens our security and sends too much American money overseas. I’m proud to stand with my colleagues today to do the right thing for the future of America’s economy and security.”

In sharp contrast, in 2008 — Chabot’s last year in Congress — the League of Conservation Voters gave him a bottom-of-the-barrel 8% rating on environmental issues. Chabot earned his low rating by voting against renewable energy, against removing oil and gas exploration subsidies, against keeping a moratorium on offshore oil drilling, against raising fuel economy standards for vehicles, against prohibiting oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and against implementing the Kyoto Protocol. In short, Steve Chabot voted against the environment at pretty much every opportunity.

Chabot’s position hasn’t changed since leaving Congress. On the campaign trail, he’s said that he “strongly oppose[s] cap and trade,” citing fuzzy math claiming that it will "cost the average American family an additional $1,770 a year in higher energy costs.” The truth, according to the experts in the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), is that the net economy-wide cost of the cap-and-trade program would be about $175 per household" — or one-tenth of what Steve Chabot is claiming.

Furthermore, the CBO’s estimate doesn’t include the benefits of reducing global warming, such as mitigating the record-setting heat and drought conditions we’re already seeing around the world.

And just as important, Chabot is ignoring the positive job impact of passing ACES, which would create an estimated 1.9 million jobs, according to a study by the University of Illinois, Yale University and the University of California.” In Ohio, this would mean 61,000 new good-paying jobs created over the next ten years.

Chabot doesn’t just oppose legislation to move to clean energy, he mocks the unassailable science demonstrating global warming. On his blog, Chabot claims that the absence of hurricanes hitting the United States in 2009 represented an “inconvenient truth” to “environmental alarmists” on global warming. And he promotes conspiracy theories, such as “climategate” — a non-scandal pushed by climate change deniers and fossil fuel interests, now completely debunked.

Chabot’s fiercely anti-environmental views are not so surprising when you consider the sources of his campaign cash – Rep. Joe Barton’s Texas Freedom PAC ($6,000) and oil and coal services giant Koch Industries ($5,000), for instance. Rep. Barton is one of big oil’s best friends in Congress. You may remember his recent apology to BP when it set aside money to pay small businesses that have lost money because of the Gulf disaster. And Koch Industries is notorious for having “quietly funneled [$50 million] to climate-denial front groups that are working to delay policies and regulations aimed at stopping global warming is no joking matter.”

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

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