E&E reported yesterday that, despite the 11 investigations, Scott Pruitt remains in Donald Trump’s good graces. Apparently this is in part thanks to supportive Koch-coalition lobbying, which Pruitt may repay with even more extreme regulatory measures. That was before the Government Accountability Office ruled that Pruitt’s secret $43,000 phone booth violated federal spending laws, as it cost well over the $5,000 he was allowed to spend without notifying Congress. Given everything else going on, we’re not confident Pruitt’s violation will rise to Trump’s attention.
If nearly a dozen investigations aren’t enough to boot Pruitt, what will it take? Maybe if conservative leaders spoke out against Pruitt, to offset those supporting him? If that’s the case, perhaps Trey “Mr. Benghazi” Gowdy’s House Oversight investigation and comments on Fox News Sunday will have an outsized effect.
There is a similar line of thought about climate change more generally. In fact, a recently published study in Climatic Change found that messages correcting climate misinformation are most persuasive when they come from “Republicans speaking against their partisan interest.” And another new study, this one published in Nature Climate Change, found substantial differences in how people in different states react to learning about the consensus.
While a message about the 97% consensus increased awareness in liberal states, the highest increases were found in more conservative states where the baseline recognition of the consensus was lower. Exposure to the consensus in D.C. and California only increased awareness by 12%, whereas the message in West Virginia and Wyoming increased understanding by 22.7% by 24.1% respectively.
To counter the fossil-fuel driven denial machine, then, respected conservative voices need to talk about the consensus- but that’s not all. They also need to present GOP-friendly policy solutions and market-based policies like a price on carbon.
That’s the approach described in MIT Technology Review yesterday. James Temple took a look at the influence of elite opinion and outlined how climate-aware conservatives like reformed denier Jerry Taylor and Republican former Representative Bob Inglis are trying to bring the GOP back to reality.
If they successfully counter the corrupting influence of Koch and Big Oil spending, we would have a shot at real bipartisan climate action. But Inglis stands as a stark warning to other conservatives considering a path of climate consciousness. Temple recounts how in 2010, when Inglis announced his support for climate action, Koch spending kicked into high gear and he was primaried out of office in the next election by a Tea Party darling.
Perhaps Pruitt won’t really be in trouble, then, until he starts getting criticized by Inglis’s super-conservative replacement, a man whose all-time top career campaign contributor is Koch Industries.
That man’s name?
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