During last week’s vote-a-rama, Indiana Republican Senator Mike Braun introduced an amendment to try and prevent President Biden from banning fracking (which he has hasn't done, and has said, repeatedly, he won't do, to the chagrin of many on the left), using the power of the purse to prohibit CEQ or EPA from working on blocking fracking. It passed with the votes of seven Democrats, but was then stripped out anyway as part of the budget reconciliation process. So it was a purely symbolic move, like the other 800 or so amendments; a futile gesture of political posturing.
While it would usually be par for the course for a Republican to loudly oppose a climate solution, Senator Braun is the co-founder of the bipartisan Senate Climate Solutions Caucus.
Hmmmm so if an obvious solution, stopping one of the main activities that causes the problem, is off the table, what solutions would Braun prefer?
Thankfully, Braun did an interview with the Indianapolis Star in which he laid out just that. Because while he will vote for President Biden’s EPA pick Micahel Regan, Braun said he didn’t support the Biden agenda on the environment. He’s worried that Biden’s actions will set back “all the progress we’ve made in the Senate Climate Caucus'', and that they’re “going to lose some of the people we got on the caucus.”
What progress have they made, exactly? Good question! We haven’t noticed any. And if anti-anti-fracking Braun is the co-chair, how much more staunchly pro-causing climate change could other senators even get? (And how would they even be helpful participants in a "climate solutions" caucus?)
Well, as it turns out there is a solution that Braun supports. He told the IndyStar the "trillion trees" effort is “very doable and doesn’t cost much.” The story helpfully informs readers unaware of his background that Senator Braun “is one of Indiana's largest timber land owners.”
KA-CHING! Just like his trillion-tree-supporting Republican colleague in the House Bruce Westerman, Braun’s got a pretty direct connection to the tree-chopping industry.
Apparently, Braun said, it’s vital that the trees are “where we need to begin, otherwise it won’t be bipartisan. It will be another failed big government program.”
What an amazing coincidence! The senator demands that supporting an industry from which he personally profits be the starting point of policy, otherwise he’ll oppose it — in fact, he's already calling it a failure.
Well, at least the "solution" Braun supports (and would profit from) actually would help climate change, or — at least — wouldn't make it worse. Right?
It turns out that the climate benefits come less from planting trees to store carbon than it is in letting them grow. That’s the bottom line of a great HuffPo piece by Kyla Mandel published on Friday. Because while it seems like such an easy solution, it turns out that it’s not quite as easy as Johnny Appleseed’s carefree scattering might suggest.
According to the co-author of a review of trees and other natural climate solutions, Alison Smith, “the expansion of forestry framed as a climate change mitigation solution is being used for corporate greenwashing, as an excuse for continued use of fossil fuels.”
To really be done right, trees need to be carefully planted in formerly forested areas; otherwise it just disrupts a different ecosystem. It also can’t just be one type of tree, in neat rows, a la timber industry practice, because that’s not going to create a resilient ecosystem.
And the trees have to survive for decades to deliver the long-term carbon capture benefits, which is why UC-Santa Cruz professor Karen Holl says we shouldn’t think about it as planting, but instead “tree growing.” She acknowledged that people may want “to plant our way out of climate change. But if we do not aggressively reduce our emissions, then tree growing is not going to get us out of this.”
Hear that, Senator Braun? If we’re not reducing fossil fuel emissions, then subsidies for the timber industry certainly aren’t going to be a climate solution. And if an unhelpful greenwashing plan is the best "solution" the co-founder of the "Climate Solutions Caucus" can endorse, then the caucus may as well be about preventing climate solutions instead of deploying them.