the national interest

Marco Rubio: I’m Not a Sinologist, Man

US Republican Senator from Florida Marco Rubio speaks at the BuzzFeed Brews newsmaker event in Washington on February 5, 2013.
Marco Rubio is thinking of a new rationale to justify his old position. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

Marco Rubio has stopped framing his defense of unlimited carbon emissions as not being a scientist, man, and instead focused on the pointlessness of us doing anything since China would never, ever limit its own emissions. As he said in August, “as far as I can see, China and India and other developing countries are going to continue to burn anything they can get their hands on.” And as he reiterated at the last Republican debate, “we are not even the largest carbon producer anymore: China is. And they’re drilling a hole and digging anywhere in the world that they can get a hold of.

Meanwhile, China has taken a series of increasingly aggressive steps to overhaul its energy system, culminating in the announcement of a cap-and-trade system. Coral Davenport asked Rubio’s campaign if China’s new emissions-control plan in any way budges his view that China will never control its emissions. A spokesperson for the campaign responded, “Marco is opposed to cap-and-trade and other forms of a national energy tax.” She added, “He has outlined concrete proposals that will help us seize our energy potential without increasing the reach of the E.P.A.

Note that Rubio has not actually answered the question. He has insisted he opposes using the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate carbon because China will never do anything. Asked for his reaction to China doing something and he merely reiterates that he opposes the EPA regulating carbon.

Also, the proposals referenced by the campaign are to eliminate the Clean Power Plan, “allowing the states to control their own energy futures” — i.e., make national-level environmental regulation difficult to impossible — and to end the ban on crude-oil exports. Rubio spokesperson Alex Conant told me, via email, that this represents all of Rubio’s energy-related ideas to date, though, “we’ll be rolling out our full energy plan soon. (Not a climate-change plan.)” Presumably, Rubio’s campaign needs to figure out whether China’s cap-and-trade policy will force it to come up with a new reason to oppose emissions limits or not.