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Paris Climate Pact Is A Bad Deal For The U.S., Rep. Griffith Says


Millions of jobs over the next decade - that's what President Donald Trump said was at stake if the U.S. stayed in the Paris climate deal.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Compliance with the terms of the Paris accord and the onerous energy restrictions it has placed on the United States could cost America as much as 2.7 million lost jobs by 2025.

MARTIN: Some lawmakers have echoed those concerns, especially those in coal mining states that have been right at the center of the ongoing energy debate in this country. Congressman Morgan Griffith of southwestern Virginia is one of those lawmakers. He joins us now on the line this morning. Congressman, thanks so much for being here.

MORGAN GRIFFITH: Glad to be with you, good morning.

MARTIN: You called the Paris accord a bad deal for Americans in a statement you released yesterday. But polls show that a majority of Americans in every state, including yours, including Virginia, wanted the U.S. to stay in the Paris deal. How do you square your stance with public opinion?

GRIFFITH: Well, I think most of the folks out there don't really understand the Paris accord. They think it's just about cleaning up the air. They don't understand that it's a bad deal for the United States, that we are treated unfairly in comparison with a lot of the other countries of the world, that we are expected to fund - through a United Nations Green Climate Fund program - that we are expected to fund the vast majority of many of the other nations in the world, not Europe and not some of the larger ones but many other nations in the world. We're expected to fund their shift while we're having budget deficits and a huge debt that we're piling on our children here in the United States.

So when you look at the totality of the agreement, not just that we are aspiring to have clean air but the totality of the agreement, it's a bad deal for the United States. It's bad for jobs, and it really doesn't do that much for the environment. It's more aspirational in its relationship to the environment overall.

MARTIN: And the effect on the environment - there would be many scientists, scientific organizations, that would disagree with you. But I want to pivot to what you said about jobs. You have been a vocal supporter of the coal mining industry, as is President Trump. Your district is in the heart of coal country. Do you think pulling out of the Paris accord is going to be good for coal?

GRIFFITH: Well, it certainly sends a signal that the war on coal is coming to an end and that we need to do clean coal technologies. But at the same time, we need to recognize that a large portion of the world's energy is still going to be provided by coal. And a significant portion of the United States' energy, for the foreseeable future, will still have coal as its base. And, you know, right now, even though some people don't realize this, coal still provides more than all other renewables combined - wind, solar, et cetera - combined for the United States as a whole. Natural gas has supplanted it in many ways, but there are some things the natural gas just can't do.

MARTIN: Although - this is just about market forces - I mean, many will point to the fact that coal is on the decline. Those jobs aren't coming back because, as you point out, natural gas is more economical, and there's just more of it, and that's where the growth industries are.

GRIFFITH: Well, we have plenty of coal. Don't be mistaken about that. But that being said, natural gas is cheaper at this point in time for the production of energy. Now, when you're looking at metallurgical coal, that's another story because you can't make the fine quality steels with natural gas that you can with coal. But the world is still going there. It's still cheaper worldwide. We are very fortunate in our country that natural gas is cheaper. India is going to be using coal. China is going to be using coal. Japan and South Korea are going to be using coal.

You look around the world, coal is still going to be a major player, and we shouldn't be throwing our baby out with the bathwater and saying that you can't use it. Now, we should aspire to burn it more cleanly, but we shouldn't be entering into agreements that throw away thousands of American jobs, not just in the coal industry but in so many others, for little gain and where we're funding the other countries.

MARTIN: Although you say - I just have to point out you say coal should be made more cleanly. The Department of Energy had a program that was designed to do just that, to explore those technologies, and the Trump administration lined that up for a budget cut.

GRIFFITH: Yeah, I don't agree with that. That's a place where the president and I don't agree. I think we need to spend more money on clean coal research money. We need to have parity between the fossil fuels and the renewables, so recognizing the reality of the future that we're going to continue to use fossil fuels. Let's figure out the cleanest way to burn it and then export that to the foreign countries.

MARTIN: Are you worried about climate change?

GRIFFITH: I do think we have to keep an eye on it. I'm not sure all the different factors. It's a complex problem, but clearly, something is happening out there, and we do need to pay attention to it.

MARTIN: Republican Congressman Morgan Griffith of Virginia, thanks so much for talking with us this morning.

GRIFFITH: Glad to be with you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.