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LEHI — In Sen. Mitt Romney’s opinion, America faces three major challenges that the country’s just not dealing with.
The first of Romney’s worries is the $23 trillion in debt the United States has accumulated and the trillion dollars it adds to it each year — even during a time when the economy is strong.
“That’s a problem. There’s no appetite to deal with it because it doesn’t have political currency right now,” the senator said while talking to reporters during a visit to the Silicon Slopes headquarters in Lehi Friday.
The interest on that debt is over $300 billion a year — and that’s about twice as much as the U.S. spends on military hardware each year, Romney explained.
“This is a real problem, and we’re going to have to finally deal with some of the spending we do in Washington that really hasn’t been reformed in a long, long time,” he said.
The second thing that keeps Romney up at night is “the emergence of China.” China will eventually have a larger economy and military than America and will be a geopolitical superpower, the senator believes.
“And we really haven’t confronted their unfair economic practices as we ought to. The president is trying and has made a start there, but there’s a lot more we gotta do,” he said during a Q&A at Utah tech company Podium on Friday.
Romney met with President Donald Trump a few months ago (prior to his notorious impeachment vote) and told the leader of the free world that he was “fully behind” him “with regards to the tariffs on China.”
“I think it’s the right thing to do: put tariffs on them until they agree to protect our intellectual property,” he said.
But he disagrees with Trump’s decision to place tariffs on the European Union, Canada and Mexico.
“I think we ought to be getting closer to our friends and collaboratively put pressure on China, where I think we’ll have more impact,” Romney added. “So we agree to disagree on that.”
Though the senator doubts he and the president are going to be spending a lot of one-on-one time together now after his vote to find Trump guilty of abuse of power during his impeachment trial.
“People say to me, ‘Are you sure that we’re causing (climate change)?’ And I say, ‘I hope we’re causing it. Because if we’re not causing it, there’s nothing we can do about it. So I hope we’re causing it, and I believe we’re causing it to a great degree,” Romney continued during the Q&A, after which the senator received a standing applause from the crowd.
How to deal with climate change, however, is a different ballgame.
Romney recalled a time he invited Bill Gates and his team to his home to chat about climate change, among other issues. Gates told Romney that even if the U.S. got rid of every power plant and every car in the country, the amount of carbon dioxide emissions would continue to rise throughout the world.
Currently, 8% of global emissions come from manufacturing concrete, and another 6% comes from manufacturing steel, he said, recalling his conversation with Gates.
“Passing laws in Washington about restricting the size of your washing machine and how many watts your lightbulb has — that’s nice, but it’s not going to change global warming,” Romney said. “The only way you’re going to reduce or bring down the growth rate in CO2 emissions in the planet is if we develop technologies across all the things that emit CO2 … that are low-emitting and that are less expensive than the current technologies.”
Poorer countries like China and India aren’t going to adopt low-emitting technologies if they cost a lot of money, he explained. Their most pressing problems are getting power to areas of the country that don’t have any. They’re going to use what’s cheapest.
New technologies are the answer, but how do you encourage the private sector to participate?
“The governmental side — you put money into colleges, universities, think tanks, labs. But how do you get everybody to think about it?” he said.
Some people suggest regulations, he explained, but he believes incentivizing companies to reduce emissions is a more effective method — especially since the U.S. needs to also aid countries whose emissions are growing at an alarming rate.
“I’m a fan of all ideas that might bring new technologies that are low-emitting, because I really want to see us do everything we possibly can to help China, Indonesia, Brazil, India — the places that are growing emissions like crazy — help them turn the corner and reduce our emissions,” he said.