John Huntsman: Climate Change Believer and Possible Clairvoyant?


Photo: saucy pan, CC

As top Republican presidential aspirants either flame out, contract foot-in-mouth disease, or stay home to play on Twitter, the field looks wide open to earn the GOP nomination. Enter former Utah Governor and our most recent Ambassador to China John Huntsman, the mystery man who is perhaps poised to fill the void at the top of ticket. But how would Huntsman deal with climate change if elected? A new Time profile offers some clues. First, some history. Here's some comments from Huntsman when he was governor about joining the Western Climate Initiative, a regional cap and trade plan championed by Arnold Schwarzenegger and Huntsman when he was head of the Western Governors' Association.

We have to make sure that we recognize a couple of important facts as we go forward. One of the facts of life for Utah will be that a very important engine of growth for us over the years will be the new innovations and technologies and capital equipment surrounding a new energy economy, a green energy economy, things like carbon capture and sequestration...But in order to get to the heart and soul ofcarbon emission, which is a problem, because it leads to polluted skies and air quality problems and climate change, we must put a value on carbon. Until we put a value on carbon, we've never going to be able to get serious with dealing with climate change longer term. Now, putting a value on carbon either suggests that you go to a carbon tax or you get a cap-and-trade system under way...As the head of the Western Governors' Association, I'm doing my best as the leader of this group to develop a comprehensive energy program that we're going to turn over to the next president of the United States, which will include issues of affordability, issues of energy independence, and issues of sustainability. And when I speak of sustainability, I talk about ultimately a cap-and-trade system...

So he's pro carbon price, pro market based system to deal with emissions, and he appears to be commited to clean energy. Sounds good, right? Here's video of committed supporting the WCI.

But as a presidential candidate on the right, Huntsman has a different audience to please then he did when he was governor. Witness his interview with Time, released today, in which he dismisses the efficacy of the Western Climate Initiative and other carbon cap and trade programs. There is a small problem with his dissing of the plan: the WCI has yet to begin.

Judge for yourself. Excerpts of the interview are below.

You also believe in climate change, right?

This is an issue that ought to be answered by the scientific community; I'm not a meteorologist. All I know is 90 percent of the scientists say climate change is occurring. If 90 percent of the oncological community said something was causing cancer we'd listen to them. I respect science and the professionals behind the science so I tend to think it's better left to the science community -- though we can debate what that means for the energy and transportation sectors.

Matt [David, Huntsman's communications director,] says you've changed your mind about cap-and-trade.
Cap-and-trade ideas aren't working; it hasn't worked, and our economy's in a different place than five years ago. Much of this discussion happened before the bottom fell out of the economy, and until it comes back, this isn't the moment.

Will it ever be the moment, though? The environment never takes priority because it never seems like something has to be addressed this quarter or else, but if you look at what's happening to our planet ...

If anyone knows about the need to clean up the planet, we do; we've been living somewhere [Beijing] where you feel like you're killing your kids sending them out to school every day. But putting additional burdens on the pillars of growth right now is counter-productive. If we have a lost decade, then nothing else matters. Ask Japan about that.

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