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Texas Gov. Rick Perry

If Rick Perry runs for president – and it looks increasingly like Texas’ Republican governor may well do that – he already has one key ally in a key state who notably shares his distaste for climate-protection regulations.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported that the state legislator who launched California’s Draft Rick Perry 2012 is Dan Logue, the State Assembly member who led the unsuccessful drive in a ballot proposition last year to suspend the state’s landmark law to reduce climate-altering pollution.

Speaking in advance of Perry’s visit last week in Sacramento with California Republicans urging him to seek the White House, Logue told the Chronicle that GOP frontrunner and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s “commitment to global warming” – apparently meaning his refusal to disavow his acceptance of mainstream climate science and past support for cutting greenhouse gases – “opens the door for a pro-jobs candidate” such as Perry.

Just as Perry has based his attack on federal regulations to limit such emissions on the argument that they threaten Texas jobs, Logue and other proponents of the 2010 California ballot proposition to suspend that state’s climate law argued that the ensuing regulations would erase California jobs.

It proved to be a losing argument. A coalition defending the climate-protection law based much of its counterattack on stressing the bankrolling of the multimillion-dollar suspension effort by a pair of oil companies based in San Antonio, Valero and Tesoro.

One typical video by the pro-regulation campaign had a thuggish figure, labeled “Texas Oil,” threatening a tied-up man, representing “California.” After he broke free, the final on-screen message tweaked the famous Texas anti-litter slogan: “Don’t Mess With California.”

(Valero, besides giving about $5 million to the campaign to suspend California’s climate law, has contributed to Perry’s political campaigns – $147,895 from 2004-2010, according to the non-partisan National Institute on Money in State Politics.)

Mindful, perhaps, that Texas was skillfully pilloried as polluter-friendly in the winning effort to maintain the California climate law, Perry may not actually hope to carry the Democratic-leaning state against President Barack Obama. (Implausible as it may seem, a recent poll by a Democratic-affiliated survey firm showed [PDF] him slightly trailing Obama even in Republican Texas.)

Still, the San Francisco newspaper’s report contained a reminder that California holds ample reasons for a potential Republican candidate to visit: “Perry’s hitting California, that reliable political ATM, for the second time in a month this week – starting out in the Southland and Beverly Hills.”

Though Romney is sticking at least with the basics of his earlier stance on the reality of manmade climate change and the need for action to stem it, other Republican candidates who held similar positions are abandoning them.

For instance, the National Journal reported that “all of the GOP candidates vow to fight anything that even hints of restrictions on fossil fuels and carbon emissions,” though none “has made a more jaw-dropping about-face than [former Minnesota Gov. Tim] Pawlenty:

Despite his current claims, Pawlenty did far more than flirt with climate change: He made the issue a signature of his administration and of his 2007-08 tenure as head of the National Governors Association. He aggressively led state, regional, and national efforts to promote cap-and-trade legislation and pushed through one of the country’s toughest renewable-energy mandates in Minnesota. Along the way, he won other Republicans over to the cause. And he did it in the national spotlight, as his star rose high enough to put him on [Arizona Sen. John] McCain’s short list of possible running mates.

Perry, his allies such as the California lawmaker Logue, and other GOP candidates such as U.S. Rep. Michelle Bachmann of Minnesota have no need to make such reversals. Logue and Bachmann, for instance, are among Republicans who haven’t just questioned scientific findings attributing global warming and other climatic changes to human influence but have used terminology suggesting they are willfully fraudulent.

Logue told the liberal Wonk Room blog last year in an interview during the campaign over suspending the California climate law, “I think the issue of global warming is not solved. I do not think the science has been settled. […] This is a scam.”

Bachmann, speaking in 2008, referred to “the global warming hoax. It’s all voodoo, nonsense, hokum, a hoax.”

Perry, for his part, has never gone that far. He has poked fun at concerns about manmade climate change and challenged the validity of the scientific underpinnings of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s emission-lowering regulations for large industrial plants. But his office has also noted that the state-aided growth of Texas’ wind power industry has helped cut carbon dioxide, which is only of concern because it is the most significant human-produced greenhouse gas.

Typical of Perry’s own pronouncements on the issue were his musings in 2009 to reporters in Austin, when he said, in part, that:

[…] we felt like that the EPA made an error when it decided to make CO2 a toxic substance. I mean the idea that CO2 is a toxic substance is a bit hard for this, you know, agricultural scientist to get his arms around when Nobel Peace Prize or Nobel laureates have talked about CO2 in a very positive sense, when you talk about the Green Revolution [which was marked by increased crop production in developing nations].

With polls over the past couple of years showing lower concern about climate change and less acceptance of climate science – especially among Republican voters – campaign positions consistent with that opinion trend are surely seen by candidates as a way to appeal to a good number of GOP primary voters.

Nonetheless, a national survey released two days before Perry’s Sacramento meeting with supporters indicated that might not actually be a winning strategy. The Daily Climate, an online news outlet, reported:

Against all political intuition, Republican candidates could win votes by taking “green” positions on the controversy over climate change, according to new poll results released Tuesday.

Voters tend to favor political candidates who believe that humans have contributed to global warming and that the nation should take action by switching from fossil fuels to solar and wind power, according to Stanford University’s national survey.

The team of researchers at Stanford’s Woods Institute for the Environment found that by taking a “green position” on climate, candidates of either party can gain the votes of some citizens while not alienating others.

“Candidates who took a green position gained votes, and candidates who took not-green positions lost votes,” the study concluded.

A green position is one where a candidate believes Earth’s temperature has been gradually increasing over the last century, that climate change is at least partly caused by human activity and that government action should be taken to control emissions of carbon dioxide, methane and other gases that trap the planet’s heat.

– Bill Dawson

Image credit: Gage Skidmore, Wikimedia Commons