Lindsey Graham says climate change is no reason to 'destroy' fossil fuel industry in debate with Bernie Sanders

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Senate FBI (Bloomberg)
Senate FBI (Bloomberg)

SenatorLindsey Graham, who has in recent years carved out a place within his Republican party as being a climate champion of sorts, said during a debate against Senator Bernie Sanders progress on the country’s renewable agenda shouldn’t come at the cost of the fossil fuel industry.

“I believe climate change is real,” the South Carolina senator began during a one-hour debate against the Vermont Independent, who is also arguably one of the Senate’s most green lawmakers. “But that’s no reason to destroy the fossil fuel industry in this country.”

The remarks from Sen Graham were delivered during a policy discussion moderated by Fox News’ Bret Baier, marking the first in a new live debate series being hosted by the network called the Senate Project.

“The US Senate has often been referred to as ‘the world’s greatest deliberative body’ since the 19th century,” the network wrote ahead of Monday’s televised debate introducing the series. “The Edward M Kennedy Institute, the Orrin G Hatch Foundation and the Bipartisan Policy Center have teamed up to launch a series of Oxford-style debates between leading US Senators dubbed The Senate Project to build upon the longstanding tradition.”

Senator Graham has in recent years developed a reputation as being one of the Senate Republicans who not only acknowledges that the climate crisis is caused by human intervention but has even at times pushed for bills that champion environmental conservation.

More than a decade ago, he crossed party lines to work with Democrats on a bipartisan alternative to former US President Barack Obama’s cap-and-trade bill, but he later abruptly pulled his support for the measure and later cited partisan politics for his retraction.

Shortly after that, when the South Carolina senator was making a bid to be the Republican nominee on the 2016 presidential ticket, he was recognised for being one of only two candidates from within his party who had a history of engaging with the climate crisis. Later, after he failed in his bid for president and became one of ex-president Donald Trump’s staunchest supporters, he argued against his decision to make the US the first nation in the world to formally withdraw from the Paris climate agreement.

Throughout the debate, the two senators sparred over a variety of hot button issues, including inflation, immigration, defunding the police and Medicare, all of which the senators were unable to gain any common ground on.

“What happened to gas prices: [Democrats] declared war on fossil fuels in the United States, and when you go to the pump, you’re a victim of that war,” said the GOP senator, attempting to link the country’s 40-year high inflation to the so-called war on the fossil fuel industry.

Most experts, however, note that the out-of-control inflation the US is experiencing is a knock-on effect from the global supply chain crisis, which was tipped off by the Covid-19 pandemic starting in January 2020 with the closure of major manufacturing factories across the globe, and the ongoing war in Ukraine, which was a point picked up by Sen Sanders during the televised debate.

“Inflation is not just Joe Biden’s issue," Sen Sanders said. “You have to explain why it takes place around the world and that has to do with supply chain, the terrible war in Ukraine, and in my view, corporate greed.”

There was, however, one portion of the debate where the Republican and Independent lawmakers were able to concede to common ground: a shared dislike for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“Bernie and I agree, Putin sucks,” Sen Graham said, prompting Baier to ask the Vermont senator if that was indeed true.

“I’m not in favour of the vulgarity but the intent is correct,” Mr Sanders responded.

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