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Columns Tom Baxter

Herschel Walker’s not ready for the Green Agenda, but it’s coming anyway

By Tom Baxter

You wouldn’t exactly say this has been an issues-driven Senate race, but largely because Republican challenger Herschel Walker brings the subject up so frequently, energy and climate issues have been central to this campaign.

“If we was ready for the green agenda I would raise my hand right now, but we’re not ready right now,” Walker said at a campaign appearance last week. In their 2020 Senate races, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler also campaigned against the Green New Deal, but without the enthusiasm Walker brings to the subject. He spent over two decades in Texas before relocating to Georgia to run in this race, and he seems to have brought warm feelings for the oil and gas industry with him.

“So don’t let them fool you like this is a new agenda. This is not the new agenda. We’re not prepared, we’re not ready right now. What we need to do is keep having those gas-guzzling cars ’cause we got the good emissions under those cars,” he said.

It’s the way Walker says things like this, not what he’s saying, that gets so much attention (the previous quote is actually a reduction of a longer, rambling passage). But since we are talking about the future of the planet, his comments deserve a closer look.

Technically speaking, the Green New Deal so often referred to was a 2019 House resolution introduced by U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez setting out a very ambitious agenda for addressing climate change. The price tag was so expensive that even though the resolution was non-binding, the Senate voted it down, 99-0. Sen. Raphael Warnock, who was elected after that vote, has a perfect score from the League of Conservation Voters, but he has declined to say he would have voted for the Green New Deal resolution.

Like the Equal Rights Amendment of a previous generation, the Green New Deal has blossomed in defeat. While the provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act which deal with climate change don’t go as far, they still amount to the biggest investment in dealing with this problem that the country has made.

“A lot of money, it’s going to trees,” Walker said of the bill. “Don’t we have enough trees around here?”

But it’s in the private sector that the Green Agenda has made its biggest advances since the Green New Deal went down in flames. No matter how much Walker esteems those gas-guzzling cars with the good emissions, the American automobile industry has begun a broad move toward electric vehicles.

That’s where Walker’s dim view of the Green Agenda might be a problem if he were to be elected. Georgia, and specifically Gov. Brian Kemp, have placed a big bet on the electric future he repeatedly disdains.

The $850 million plant being built in Augusta by Solvay Specialty Polymers is the latest in a series of electric vehicle and battery plants that the state has aggressively courted and lured to the state. Half of the construction costs of that plant came from federal funds which were actively sought by Warnock. Would Walker have been that actively engaged in seeking funds for technology he doesn’t think we’re ready for? Does he plan to attend any of the ribbon cuttings for the plants being built in Georgia?

While we’re still debating on the campaign trail whether we’re ready for the Green Agenda or not, the Joint Study Committee on the Electrification of Transportation has held hearings around the state to address the real questions. What businesses will get those potentially lucrative charging stations? How’s the state going to pay for highway maintenance? These are questions that assume those gas-guzzling cars with the good emissions aren’t going to be the only solution to the transportation needs of the future. We may not be “ready right now,” but Georgia is on a very fast track preparing for a greener future.

It would be very informative to see Warnock and Walker debate these issues face-to-face before the end of this long campaign, but with the last opportunity for an Atlanta Press Club debate having passed with no takers, that’s not going to happen. But suffice it to say the two Senate candidates see the color green in very different ways.

 

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Tom Baxter

Tom Baxter has written about politics and the South for more than four decades. He was national editor and chief political correspondent at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and later edited The Southern Political Report, an online publication, for four years. Tom was the consultant for the 2008 election night coverage sponsored jointly by Current TV, Digg and Twitter, and a 2011 fellow at the Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics at the University of Kansas. He has written about the impact of Georgia’s and Alabama's immigration laws in reports for the Center for American Progress. Tom and his wife, Lili, have three adult children and seven grandchildren.

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1 Comment

  1. Katherine Helms Cummings November 22, 2022 9:39 am

    I am beyond being diplomatic about Walker. He is an idiot. Can anyone imagine him serving on a Senate committee or standing in the halls of the Hart building answering questions from the media? Or actually helping any Georgian with a problem?Report

    Reply

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