When every Republican on the House Energy & Commerce Committee voted against an amendment that declared that human activity is contributing to global warming, a new milestone was reached. John Judis at The New Republic notes that the Republican Party was originally the leader on conservation and environmental issues, but that changed when Ronald Reagan took over the helm.

Once in office, Reagan put a foe of conservation, James Watt, in charge of the Interior Department; a critic of environmental protection, Anne Gorsuch, at the Environmental Protection Agency; and he cut the research and development budget for alternative energy by 86 percent. Under Carter, the United States had become the world leader in alternative energy. By the time Reagan left office, the country was beginning to lag behind Western Europe and Japan. Reagan didn’t try to overcome the limits that nature was placing on economic growth; he wished them away.

Now, a little more than thirty years later, the Republican Party has abandoned even the pretense of caring about the environment. Most of them probably know better. After all, only three years ago John McCain and Sarah Palin included a Cap & Trade plan in their campaign platform. As this Seattle Times report from May 13, 2008 makes clear, McCain was rather explicit about it.

In a major environmental speech, Sen. John McCain on Monday said he would combat global warming with a cap-and-trade system to cut carbon emissions and increase use of nuclear power and alternative energy.

“We stand warned by serious and credible scientists across the world that time is short and the dangers are great,” said McCain, the Arizona senator and presumptive Republican presidential nominee. “The most relevant question now is whether our own government is equal to the challenge.”

“A cap-and-trade policy will send a signal that will be heard and welcomed all across the American economy,” McCain said. “And the highest rewards will go to those who make the smartest, safest, most responsible choices.”

It’s true that George W. Bush opposed Cap & Trade, but McCain won a contested primary within the Republican Party. His energy policy was seen as acceptable and it wasn’t even a major point of contention or contrast with his opponents.

But something dark and dangerous happened to the Republican Party once they were crushed in the 2008 elections. They’ve been in a downward spiral ever since, and they began at the low point of any party since the Whigs went the way of the cuckoo dodo bird. Now they can’t find a single member dealing with energy issues who will simply acknowledge that Global Warming exists.

Big Oil has never been so ascendant.

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