It finally happened! During an interview with the State Journal-Register editorial board, Rodney Davis was asked if he accepts the scientific consensus behind climate change.
The question came near the end of their interview with the three candidates in the 13th district Congressional race (at 53:00 in the video online). It was finally discussed after independent candidate John Hartman scolded the SJR editorial board for not asking about an issue as important as climate change. When asked if it's man-made, Hartman spoke about the broad scientific consensus that man-made pollution is driving the climate crisis.
David Gill reinforced the position on his campaign website, saying, "It's not a question of belief, it's a question of what is. The science is extremely clear on this. It's very, very real and it's a grave threat. Irreversible damage is already taking place now. The failure of the Exxon-Mobil funded politicians in Washington D.C. to address it appropriately is perhaps the biggest mistake that we're making."
Gill didn't mention that his Republican opponent, Rodney Davis, already took the maximum allowable campaign contributions from Exxon and the Koch brothers PAC. Both Exxon and the Koch brothers funded deceptive propaganda campaigns to spread doubt about the science of climate change. Does Davis represent the views of his corporate sponsors who try to undermine science?
Davis claimed that, "I think we all agree that climate change is reality. There's a debate between how much of it is man-made and how much of it is due to natural causes." He didn't say where he stands in that debate.
Once again, Davis dodged saying plainly what he believes about climate change science. Furthermore, his claim about the debate is misleading. There's broad scientific consensus that man-made pollutants are driving greenhouse gasses far beyond normal levels, causing the planetary emergency we face now.
After it became impossible to deny that climate change was already happening, the deniers switched to the "natural causes" argument in an attempt to cast doubt on the scientific consensus. Davis is repeating the misleading talking points used by the fossil fuel industry and their puppets like Glenn Beck, James Inhofe, and John Shimkus. He passed on the opportunity to distinguish himself from the anti-science conspiracy theorists who support his campaign.
Davis even brought out the old straw-man argument I often hear from coal industry spokesmen, that we can't power the country on wind and solar alone. Back on planet reality, no one is seriously proposing we try doing that in the near future. What people do propose is that we create jobs by quickly building a ton of new clean energy. Unfortunately, Davis made it clear in his interview that he opposes meaningful policies to expand wind and solar.
When pressed about what tax loopholes he would close, Davis said “I would like to take away the energy tax credit that gave us the Solyndras of the world.”
First of all, Solyndra made news because it defaulted on a Department of Energy loan guarantee, not because it received a tax credit. Second, Davis personally spoke in favor of a loan guarantee from the same Department of Energy program for a proposed coal plant in Taylorville that was five times bigger than Solyndra's loan.
What's even more baffling about his position is that the production tax credit for wind power is one of the few tax cuts proven to create jobs here in Illinois.
Five to ten thousand direct and indirect jobs are created from Illinois' wind-based maintenance, construction, and manufacturing sectors. The rapid expansion of wind power in Illinois is partly due to the production tax credit.
The tax credit is scheduled to expire soon. Wind power companies argue they need the certainty of knowing it will be extended before launching new projects. Ending the tax credit, as Davis suggests, would destroy construction and manufacturing jobs in Illinois.
Davis speaks frequently about cutting taxes to create jobs and the desire small businesses have for certainty. Extending the production tax credit does both of those things for the wind industry. It's exactly what Davis claims to support in principle, but for some reason, he flip-flops when it comes to wind power.
Ending the production tax credit is the one and only tax increase Rodney Davis claims to support. It takes a real zealot to put thousands of people out of work just to spite clean energy.
When asked if he would also cut tax subsidies to the oil industry, Davis retreated into his standard talking points, defended how the oil industry uses the money, and spoke about the need for more refineries. He never directly answered the question, but he made it clear that he supports oil subsidies.
Davis worries a cap-and-trade system would hurt the economy. He says nothing about the economic impact of more frequent extreme weather events like droughts, flooding, and wildfires that wreak havoc on communities. I didn't hear anyone claim the recent drought was good for Illinois agriculture or hope that we get many more years like it. Doing nothing about climate change will bring economic disaster, and in contrast, building new clean energy is the best jobs plan anyone has come up with.
Voters have a clear choice in this election. One candidate, David Gill, takes a rational approach that respects science. He sounds as though he understands that we must take bold action to reduce climate change pollutants. The other, Rodney Davis, mimics anti-science conspiracy theorists and would subsidize oil and coal while Rome burns.
Here's the full hour-long video of the candidate interview.