WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Kevin Cramer (R-ND), member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, joined the Climate Leadership Council for a conversation about bipartisan opportunities surrounding the integration of climate and trade policy. Excerpts and full video are below.
On an America First Approach to Trade and Climate:
“It seems to me that for too long we in the United States have not valued our energy transformation, our energy successes, or our emissions successes over the years and the decades even though we’re a large energy-producing country. Rather than using that as leverage for geopolitical gain or engage in more trade opportunities and export more of our cleaner produced energy of all types, but also to reduce greenhouse gas emissions throughout the world. I also believe that it’s an area, it’s an increment that I think some of my friends in the Democratic Party can support. It’s really a combination of practical politics and in my view good policy.”
“We ought to put it in the context of global emissions and not just unilaterally disarm our economy, which is what the Left has largely wanted us to do. Not only do I come from an energy-producing state, we are mega fossil producer, but we’re also a clean energy producer.”
“When you’re talking to allies that are dealing with common adversaries and they have a strong commitment to emissions reductions, there’s a lot of opportunity. I don’t think there’s any question there’s a lot of geopolitical opportunity here, which has as its goals good investment, economic opportunity, greenhouse gas emissions reduction, and national security.”
“There is such a grand opportunity, again presented to us in many respects, by Vladimir Putin. The opportunity was always there, but it’s really there now. There’s also a political opportunity because we have on the right Donald Trump and Bob Lighthizer who have been talking about America first for a long time. We have evidence that America First is actually advantageous to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the marketplace. Let’s leverage that. And then you have a European continent, who by the way has been really difficult to do trade with… and so we found it very difficult to do business with them. But now there’s a crisis and crisis often brings people together. It forces us all to focus on the reality and what’s doable in the moment.”
On Europe and the War in Ukraine:
“What’s going on right now in Ukraine – and European nations who have been ahead of us on the idea of a carbon border adjustment mechanism – they were still pretty well tied to Russian energy. So we have the opportunity to isolate Vladimir Putin and Russia more. That’s a national security issue which gets rolled into this as well. There’s a war going on in Europe where six months ago the standard, the need, and the demand was very different than it is today. Because our European partners need our help so much – they need not just weapons systems and food intelligence, they need our products, particularly in the energy sector. The bridge if you will to completely non-emitting energy is still being built. The good news is if they replace it with American or other cleaner natural gas – produced in a cleaner way and shipped in a cleaner way – they would see immediate reductions they wouldn’t see if Nord Stream 2 was still bringing dirty Russian gas to Europe.”
On a Patriot Premium:
“I have this thing I call a ‘Patriot Premium’ or a freedom premium. These happen to be, by and large, allies who have the same values across the board. We’re not all identical, but we have a great opportunity to promote our values beyond just climate values. One thing that Vladimir Putin has done is he has demonstrated not only to Europe but to the entire world, what happens when one of us is threatened and the solidarity that comes from that among the West. He’s unifying a world around these values. It’s just a perfect scenario to share other values including all kinds of freedoms as well as greenhouse gas emissions.”
On Manchin’s Bipartisan Negotiations:
“So far what we’ve focused a lot on is the tax code or some sort of a menu, if you will, of tax credits, clean energy credits, or wherever you might go. There’s a long list of them. We’re trying to find out where are the top 4, 5, or 6 of them that have the greatest bang for the buck and that we can agree on. My sense of that part of the discussion is that it’s a pretty small group of acceptable and affordable credits, but it could be meaningful nonetheless. So we’ve sort of hung out there. Is offshore wind a higher priority? Is 45Q for carbon capture utilization and storage a higher priority? Should it be fuel neutral? It’s all built on finding common ground or at least finding what you’re willing to give and what you’re willing to take. I think at the end of the day, there’s a funnel that gets it down to a pretty finite number. By the idea of a carbon border adjustment mechanism is brought up at every meeting. I think if there’s going to be an agreement among this group, in all likelihood, it will be some form of a carbon border adjustment. And frankly, if it’s something that goes further than what I’m talking about, it’s going to be problematic for most Republicans. With regard to the likelihood of even getting to some agreement, I don’t know. But I know this much: as long as Prime Minister Joe Manchin is willing to stay in this fight and lead these discussions with optimism and hope, I want to stay in it with him. You can’t walk away from the table and get anything done.”
On a Carbon Tax:
“You asked the question how are my Republican colleagues responding to this? A lot of them with some skepticism, but a lot of them with different degrees of agreement. I’m not the first person to talk about a carbon adjustment, a carbon price, or some sort of carbon tax. We have Republicans that support varying degrees of those things. I happen to believe both in my heart as a matter of good policy, that a price is not necessarily and a tax is not necessary, but there’s room for a tariff that recognizes a standard that is based on improvement, not based on the worst common denominator. A carbon price is not required or shouldn’t be required for us to pursue a very even-handed carbon border adjustment mechanism. I’m comfortable that we can move forward, with discussions at the very least, and hopefully, some incremental conclusion that doesn’t include a domestic carbon price.”
On Ambassador Bob Lighthizer:
“Ambassador Bob Lighthizer being a masterful trade negotiator and a strong commitment to an America First negotiating position understands geopolitics and positioning very well. Lighthizer is somebody who in many respects, he and Donald Trump, brought the Republican Party more to this position that I’m describing than we were five or six years ago. While it wasn’t based on a border adjustment mechanism or greenhouse gas emissions, it was based more on America First trade. He certainly recognizes there are standards and by the way, he appropriately applies standards like human rights standards, labor standards, as well as environmental standards. When he wrote his op-ed in the 90’s, it wasn’t so much about greenhouse gas emissions as it was about more traditional pollution but recognizing that we have standards that are better than a lot of our trading partners and our trading competitors. They ought to count for something in the global marketplace.”
Senator Cramer also plugged his “Bully Pulpit” speaker series, where he hosts a variety of influential public and business leaders in North Dakota to hear from constituents and share their expertise in a format designed for constructive discussions.
“I’ve been bringing the CEOs of large banks back to North Dakota for a series of events that I call the ‘Bully Pulpit’ series. People like David Solomon from Goldman Sachs, Brian Moynihan from Bank of America, Jane Fraser from Citi. These are organizations, large lenders, and large investors that have expressed in the form of ESG statements and other things, a strong commitment to the transition. I’m helping them identify opportunities in that transition that include a lot of traditional cleaner traditional energy innovations and technologies that move us forward and ways that America again can lead and be recognized in their leadership across the globe,” said Senator Cramer.
In December, Senator Cramer and Lt. General H.R. McMaster outlined an America First approach to trade and energy production by aligning climate and national security policy in an op-ed for Foreign Policy. Looking through the lens of trade with the European Union, the op-ed highlights opportunities to be a global leader on emission reductions by producing and exporting American energy, which enhances the United States’ economy, national security, and geopolitical interests.