A lonely GOP voice on climate change

Jay Faison, entrepreneur and son of a wealthy North Carolina real estate developer, decided three years ago to take a break from heli-skiing and trekking across Africa. He offloaded his stake in the online audio-visual supplier SnapAV and launched a foundation aimed at combating climate change.

There are probably hundreds of such organizations around the country. But Faison is a major Republican donor, who last year lamented to the Charlotte Observer how environmentalists had gotten in the way of his father’s real estate developments.

On Tuesday Faison stood behind a podium at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., calling on fellow Republicans to join him in making the expansion of a domestic clean energy industry an issue not just for Democrats to rally around.

“I’ve talked to the heads of nonprofits, CEOs and political leaders. There’s many that want to come out,” the Charlotte businessman told reporters. “I encourage leaders to lead and come out. I can’t do this alone. We need to start a movement within the party.”

The decision to devote himself to fighting climate change, Faison told the Observer last year, stemmed in part from a trip to Dallas more than five years ago. He attended a retreat organized by the Halftime Institute, which according to its website trains business leaders to “engage in the issues Jesus cares about.”

Last year Faison put up $175 million of his own money to launch the foundation ClearPath.

The aim, Faison said Tuesday, is to develop a clean energy platform in this country, built around conservative principles like free-market economics and small government. While much of the current clean energy conversation focuses on wind and solar power, Faison wants to see more funding go to expanding nuclear energy, hydroelectric plants and cleaner-burning coal and natural gas plants.

To that end, he is about to launch an advertising campaign, posting ads on websites with slogans like “The liberals have misled you” and “Clean energy can be conservative.”

The amount of money Faison is putting into political campaigns has some climate change deniers within the Republican Party worried. But so far, he hasn’t had Republicans knocking down his door for campaign donations.

The only politician to sign on is Kelly Ayotte, the Republican Senator from New Hampshire now running for re-election, said Faison’s spokesman. ClearPath has written her a $500,000 check.

But Faison is hopeful that in the long-run the party will come around to his point of view. For now, ClearPath plans only to support its Republican allies, avoiding attacks on party leaders who might oppose them.

But a clash seems eminent. Asked about government subsidies for oil and gas drilling in this country, Faison said he was in favor of getting rid of them all together.

“Ronald Reagan wasn’t successful at it, so I don’t know if we would be,” he said.