09/17/2010 04:15 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Congressional Candidates' Views on Clean Energy, Climate Change: SC-05

Originally posted on The MarkUp.

This is the sixteenth article in a continuing series by the NRDC Action Fund on the environmental stances of candidates in key races around the country.

Andrew Jackson's homeland, upstate South Carolina, is today's topic. The 5th Congressional District includes all or parts of 14 counties extending from the Charlotte, NC suburbs down to the central part of the state. The 5th district has not elected a Republican since Reconstruction, and since 1983 has been represented in the U.S. House by Democrat John Spratt. The senior member of the state's Congressional delegation, Spratt chairs the House Budget Committee and is the 2nd ranking member on the Armed Services Committees. In more than two decades in Congress, Spratt has typically won re-election by wide margins. This fall, Republican challenger Mick Mulvaney will try to buck that trend.

During his tenure in Congress, Spratt has been a consistent vote for clean energy and the environment, earning a perfect, 100% rating from the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) last year. Most importantly, he voted for the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES), an extraordinarily important piece of environmental legislation which the New York Times described as "the first time either house of Congress had approved a bill meant to curb the heat-trapping gases scientists have linked to climate change." On his website, Spratt discusses the negotiation process on ACES and refutes misconceptions about the bill. He says that while he initially had concerns about the bill, along with other members of the South Carolina delegation, he was able to advance changes "lowering costs to consumers and protecting trade-affected and energy-intensive industries." Spratt also takes on "unfounded" cost estimates of the bill, noting that according to "the neutral, non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) ... the average increase per household would be approximately $175 per year. However, this estimate does not include consumer savings from tax credits and grants for efficiency and weatherization."

Mick Mulvaney, on the other hand, thinks that global warming is "based on questionable science," and that the answer to our energy challenges should be, in large part, "making it easier to drill for and use domestic resources." He has signed the radical Americans for Prosperity's No Climate Tax Pledge. This front group is funded by oil industry magnate David Koch. David Koch and his brother Charles, as you may know, are the nefarious billionaires who have spent hundreds of millions of dollars to undermine environmental regulations and to push other right-wing causes. In fact, as Greenpeace reports the Koch's have funneled nearly $50 million to climate-denial front groups, earning the title of the "kingpin[s] of climate science denial."

Mulvaney also calls solar power "wildly inefficient and outrageously expensive" and disparages other forms of renewable energy - wind, geothermal - as well. In contrast, Mulvaney praises coal-fired power plants as "more efficient producers of energy" than renewables, arguing that "building new, clean, coal-fired plants are the most economical, and most environmentally responsible, way to generate the energy we need." Of course as NRDC makes clear, there's no such thing as clean, environmentally responsible coal. From mountaintop removal mining to smokestack emissions, which are responsible for 24,000 deaths a year, every step of the coal power cycle is dirty. Coal is cheap and abundant, and with carbon capture and storage technology its can be part of a low-carbon energy mix, but it will never be clean.

Furthermore, Mulvaney has attacked Rep. Spratt for supporting the House's Gulf response bill, the CLEAR Act (HR 3534), claiming that it's a tax that will result in higher gas prices. In actuality, as NRDC explains, "the CLEAR Act is a comprehensive reform bill and an important step forward in improving our nation's ability to prevent and respond to oil spills," including "provisions to increase safety, help restore the Gulf Coast, crackdown on ethical lapses, require businesses to be responsible for their actions, and close royalty loopholes to ensure the American people receive their fair share for the extraction of public resources." The bill simply requires oil companies to obey the rules set by Congress to reduce the risks of drilling, and to cover the costs of spills they're responsible for. Calling it a tax is disingenuous, and plain wrong.

To sum up, Mick Mulvaney opposes holding polluters accountable for global warming and holding BP responsible for the disaster in Gulf.

The NRDC Action Fund believes that it is important for the public in general, and the voters of specific Congressional districts, be aware of this information as they weigh their choices for November.