Alexander downplays U.S. climate accord exit, calls for doubling energy research

Staff file photo by Robin Rudd Tennessee's senior senator Lamar Alexander, seen here several months ago at the Chattanooga Times Free Press has told Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to bypass his Senate Health Committee if House OKs a repeal and replace health care bill.

NASHVILLE - U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander says that although he takes "seriously" the scientific consensus that climate change is "real and that humans are helping cause it," the Tennessee Republican isn't all that concerned by President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement.

"Except for occasional reports, there is nothing binding about the Paris Agreement, so staying in it makes little difference," Alexander said in a statement today.

Alexander said he believes the "most important thing the United States can do to solve our energy and climate challenge is to double funding for basic energy research."

Boosting basic energy research "will help lower the cost of energy, clean the air, improve health, and reduce poverty," Alexander added. "Making that commitment - and paying for it by cutting wasteful federal subsidies such as those for wind energy-would set a good example and drive American innovation."

Trump on Thursday announced he was withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris Agreement, a global accord aimed at addressing climate change.

Former Vice President Al Gore on Thursday attacked Trump's decision, charging that removing the U.S. from the agreement a "reckless and indefensible action.

"It undermines America's standing in the world and threatens to damage humanity's ability to solve the climate crisis in time," added the Tennessee Democrat, who has made climate change a major issue. "But make no mistake: if President Trump won't lead, the American people will."

U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., on Thursday downplayed Trump's action, calling the "substantive requirements" of the agreement "non-binding.

"On the other hand, legitimate concerns have been raised about the likelihood of domestic interest groups using the agreement to file lawsuits in an effort to halt the repeal of regulations which, while being litigated, would stifle economic growth here at home," Corker said.

U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., said the climate accord represented "another regulatory overreach by the Obama administration and should have been put forward for the advice and consent of the Senate. I will continue to work on commonsense approaches to energy production and the environment."