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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Despite skipping climate summit, McMorris Rodgers leads GOP messaging on energy policy

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane, has canceled her trip to a climate summit held in the Middle East.  (Orion Donovan Smith/The Spokesman-Review)

WASHINGTON – Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers canceled a trip to the United Nations climate summit she had planned for this weekend, but the Spokane Republican delivered a clear message to the world leaders meeting in Dubai: The transition to cleaner energy shouldn’t come at the expense of U.S. energy production.

McMorris Rodgers, who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee, had planned to lead a bipartisan delegation to the conference, known as COP 28, in the oil-rich United Arab Emirates. She ended up skipping the trip due to a scheduling conflict, committee spokesman Sean Kelly said. The panel’s No. 2 Republican, Rep. Kelly Armstrong of North Dakota, led the group in her place.

“The U.S. is blessed with tremendous natural resources, which we’ve been able to harness as a result of free market principles and an entrepreneurial spirit that’s uniquely American,” McMorris Rodgers said in a subcommittee hearing Dec. 5, celebrating the United States’ status as the world’s No. 1 producer of oil and natural gas.

That message contrasts with the committee’s Democratic members, who generally support the Biden administration’s efforts to accelerate the nation’s transition to lower-carbon energy and transportation through government spending and tax incentives.

Before the delegation left for Dubai, McMorris Rodgers led a meeting Wednesday in which the committee advanced 42 bills to the House floor, several of which illustrated her vision for a U.S. energy policy that uses hydropower, nuclear energy and other sources to reduce the nation’s reliance on fossil fuels.

Despite the parties’ different messages, the official bipartisan House delegation organized by McMorris Rodgers and her Democratic counterpart of the committee, Rep. Frank Pallone of New Jersey, represents a step forward in cooperation between Republicans and Democrats. In past years, lawmakers have traveled in single-party delegations or in privately sponsored bipartisan groups. A bipartisan Senate delegation also flew to the summit, led by Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md.

The same tension that exists between Democrats and Republicans has played out on the global stage, with COP 28 showcasing the differences between countries whose economies rely on fossil fuels and those that want to rapidly cut carbon emissions in an effort to slow climate change.

The summit comes under a cloud of controversy following reports that its host, Sultan Al Jaber, an Emirati politician and the head of the national oil company, was using the gathering to strike fossil fuel deals. Al Jaber denied that claim, but he provoked more controversy when he said during the summit that there is “no science” to support the push to phase out fossil fuels.

The summit, which began Nov. 30, will conclude Dec. 12.