Congress should find common ground on clean energy

By Michael Casey, Associated Press

Former New Hampshire Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte says it's time for politicians in Washington to put aside the debate over climate change and focus on furthering efforts to expand renewable energy and other clean energy solutions.

In this Feb. 14, 2017, file photo, former New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte, right, accompanies Supreme Court Justice nominee Neil Gorsuch for a meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington. Ayotte said it's time for politicians in Washington to put aside the debate over climate change and focus on getting things that could further efforts to expand renewable energy and other clean energy solutions. Ayotte, who last month became a senior adviser with the conservative Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions, said she believes the science on climate change is settled. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Former New Hampshire Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte says it's time for politicians in Washington to put aside the debate over climate change and focus on furthering efforts to expand renewable energy and other clean energy solutions.

Ayotte, who last month became a senior adviser with the Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions (CRES), which promotes what it calls conservative solutions to expanding renewable energy, said she believes the science on climate change settled. Her assertions reflect the views of most scientists, including those at NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, who believe carbon dioxide is a primary contributor to global warming. But a minority of voices, including several members of President Donald Trump's administration, question that and said warming was due to natural causes.

Ayotte said heated debate on issues like climate change kept Democrats and Republicans from agreeing on energy solutions that would protect the environment while growing the economy.

"As I look at the environment discussion, often the experience in Washington has been that both sides often use it as political football rather than looking at common ground and where we can find pragmatic solutions," Ayotte told the Associated Press on Thursday.

During her tenure in the Senate, Ayotte was considered an environmental leader among Republicans. She advocated for the United States to combat global warming, became the first Republican to support President Barack Obama's plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and formed a Republican working group that, among other things, promoted renewable energy.

After losing to Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan in November, Ayotte has remained active. She helped guide Trump's nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, Neil Gorsuch, through the confirmation process, joined the board of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp and now is advising Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions on energy issues.

"There is a lot of discussion around climate policy where there are significant disagreements, but what about issues like modernizing the energy grid," she said. "It seems to me both Democrats and Republicans want to make sure we have a strong, modernized grid that also allows us to take advantage of all our energy resources including renewable resources."

Ayotte's advocacy for clean energy comes at a time the Trump administration is focused more on ways to promote traditional fossil fuels, like coal. Trump has called climate change a hoax and, on Monday, Energy Secretary Rick Perry said he does not believe carbon dioxide is a primary contributor to global warming. Trump also pulled the United States out of the Paris climate agreement.

Ayotte said she wasn't interested in "picking a fight" with the administration on environmental issues and refrained from commenting on its climate change policy. Rather, her group's efforts would focus mostly on finding members of Congress who want to support clean energy policies.

"I don't want to focus on teeth gnashing because I don't know what that does to help us solve any problems," she said.

James Dozier, is the executive director Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions, said this approach makes sense given that most American voters have embraced renewables and are looking for candidates "who support clean energy technologies."

"If Republicans want to attract new generations of voters and swing voters, they need to be putting these solutions forward," he said. "They're popular and good policy and it makes for smart politics."

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