(The conversation becomes a verbal skirmish, and the committee chairman breaks it up.)
Noel: "I'm sorry, I'm sorry ... It got out of hand."
The resolution begs the question, who’s conspiring and why? At one point during last week’s hearing, the only member to vote against the resolution in committee, Rep. Phil Riesen, asked that.
Noel’s response involved a book from the 1970s about population co-authored by presidential science advisor John Holdren.
“If you can’t see a connection to that, you’re absolutely blind to what’s going on,” Noel said. “This is a conspiracy to limit population, not only in this country, but across the globe.”
The resolution’s sponsor, Rep. Kerry Gibson, responded to the conspiracy question:
“I’m not sure we even know the depths of it.”
During the hearing, Kerry turned the microphone over to Utah Farm Bureau Federation CEO Randy Parker to explain the resolution item by item and its more inflammatory declarations.
Parker, who called on the BYU scientists to apologize for their letter, also went into economic issues, saying farmers would be forced out of business and the U.S. would be left relying on Mexico and China for food. The president of the Utah Mining Association and the executive director of the Utah Rural Electric Association also spoke in favor of the bill.
Coal's Hold on Utah
Agriculture and energy are powerful lobbies in Utah. Close to of Utah’s electricity comes from coal. The state’s coal and gas account for about 2 percent of the nation’s total, and its oil accounts for about 1 percent.
That high rate of coal use is part of the reason cap-and trade is unpopular in Utah, explained Sarah Wright, executive director of Utah Clean Energy and a member of former Gov. Jon Huntsman, Jr.,’s 2007 on climate change, a committee Parker also sat on.
“Many in Utah feel they will be paying double to reduce their carbon emission because they have to pay the allocations and change out our current electrical generation to non-carbon form. They feel it’s a transfer of wealth from coal producing to states with hydro and nuclear,” Wright explained.
Wright’s group, which has been promoting a shifting to clean energy and greater energy efficiency in Utah for close to a decade, believes it is important for Utah to reduce its carbon emissions in ways that work for the state and to stay engaged in the , a regional group of states and Canadian provinces that has been discussing climate change solutions.
“We are moving on clean energy and we are moving on energy efficiency," she said, noting the state's first wind farms were built in the last fews years and the state had added incentives for renewables. "But there is a sort of faction that will want to keep the status quo,” she said.
House Minority Leader David Litvack, a Democrat, also noted the state’s progress toward more clean energy with its , program, and Utah State University’s work with as biofuel.
The language of the resolution was “unfortunate. It does nothing but shut the door to dialogue,” he said, adding that the House minority whip was working behind the scenes to try to bring cooler heads to the issue.
Much of the state's progress on clean energy and climate came under the leadership of Huntsman, the former Republican governor who resigned last year to become U.S. ambassador to China. In contrast, his successor, Gary Herbert, the science.