Jon Huntsman’s cap and trade record could be significant barrier in 2012 run

Amanda Carey Contributor
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When Jon Huntsman resigned his post as U.S. Ambassador to China earlier this week, commentators on all sides of the political spectrum began analyzing his chances of winning the presidency in 2012 if he opted to run.

In Time magazine, Michael Scherer wrote about the former Utah governor’s perceived moderation. “What if in 2012 moderation rules? What if competence is a more important message than ideological difference?” Scherer asked.

In her blog at the Washington Post, Jen Rubin chalked up the Huntsman craze as a fleeting fad, writing, “Frankly, it doesn’t pass the laugh test…The buzz is entirely a creation of liberal media outlets and cable TV talking heads within the Beltway.”

But as Rubin also pointed out, Huntsman’s biggest problem with the conservative base, should he decide to run, would be his devotion to cap and trade policies. And never was it on display more prominently than when then-Gov. Huntsman signed the Western Climate Initiative (WCI).

The WCI is an alliance of states and provinces along the western edge of North America seeking to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and lay the groundwork for a regional cap and trade system.

Hunstman signed onto the initiative in 2007, and was one of only two Republican governors to do so. The other was former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Then there’s the governor’s Blue Ribbon Advisory Council (BRAC) on Climate Change. Established by Hunstsman in 2006, it was intended to be a “forum where government, industry, environment, and community representatives could identify proactive measures” to reduce greenhouse gases.

BRAC’s final report found, among other things, that “based on extensive scientific research, there is very high confidence that human-generated increases in greenhouse gas concentrations are responsible for most of the global warming observed during the past 50 years.”

The report’s recommendations included calling for the state of Utah to promote “urban and community trees” and implement a greenhouse gases registry, greenhouse gas reductions targets, and a regional or state cap and trade program or tax.

Huntsman was even quoted in 2009 as saying, “It’s been enormously frustrating…We would not need the Western Climate Initiative if it were not for the foot-dragging nature of Congress.”

“If Republicans had identified this problem earlier and tackled it aggressively, we would all be working together,” he said.

Moreover, in his statement to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee after being nominate to serve as ambassador to China, Huntsman once again stressed the threat of climate change.

“We have entered an era in which all nations are called upon to work together to address the urgent problem of global climate change. The United States and China should be part of the solution, and collaboration on clean energy and greater energy efficiency offer a real opportunity to deepen the overall U.S.-China relationship,” said Huntsman.

While Huntsman may appeal to an audience of liberal Republicans and some more conservative Democrats, few believe that the conservative Republican base would likely to support him.

“Cap and trade is a significant policy issue that would be a major factor in the nomination process for the Republicans,” Tom Borelli of the Free Enterprise Project told The Daily Caller. “Any candidate who supported cap and trade would not get the nomination.”

Borelli also pointed out that House members who supported the Waxman-Markey cap and trade bill didn’t have much success in their reelection bids in 2010.