OGDEN — The backlash from his recent comment linking the Green New Deal and genocide took him by surprise, said U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop.

“I speak figuratively. I was amazed that some people would take it as I meant it literally,” he said Friday on a stop in Ogden. Indeed, he offered something of a mea culpa.

His follow-up comments after his initial remarks at a March 15 press conference on the Green New Deal were also “totally sarcastic, which doesn’t come across in print. ... So I feel bad about that,” Bishop said.

But make no mistake, he’s no fan of the Green New Deal, the resolution put forward by Democratic members of the U.S. House as a starting point for legislation to address climate change and promote increased use of renewable energy. “There are a lot of flaws in it,” said Bishop, a Republican from Brigham City who represents Northern Utah.

And even if the Democratic measure doesn’t lead to genocide — Bishop doesn’t actually think it will — he worries it would have an adverse impact, particularly in a wide-open area like the U.S. West. Unlike those living in highly populated areas along the East Coast, rural Americans typically have to cover large distances in their everyday lives, underscoring the importance of access to traditional carbon-based energy sources like gasoline.

The Green New Deal was “designed by people who live in the East in urban areas, where they measure distances by subway stops not in miles,” Bishop said. Indeed, the notion of life in rural America “where it takes a half hour to drive in to town to the store” is a “foreign concept” to the resolution’s crafters, he maintains.

The absence of that rural perspective, he insists, is a serious shortcoming. And it spurred him, as the GOP leader in the House Committee on Natural Resources, and GOP leaders on other U.S. House committees to ask House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, to hold hearings on the Green New Deal in a cross-section of committees. That was the focus of the March 15 press conference.

“Taken together, we fear the Green New Deal would hurt Americans struggling to make ends meet — the very people it purports to help,” reads a March 14 letter to Pelosi from the GOP committee leaders, including Bishop. It’s guidelines, the critics maintain, would cause energy prices to spike, hurting the pocketbooks of many.

The Green New Deal has spurred strong reactions from lawmakers in Washington, D.C., including intense opposition from Republicans. That came through at the March 15 press conference, featuring critical comments from several GOP House leaders. But the comments Bishop says were meant to be figurative, underscoring the intensity of his opposition, stood out, generated attention in the national press, at least.

“For many people who live in the West but also in rural and urban areas, the ideas behind the Green New Deal are tantamount to genocide. That may be an overstatement, but not by a whole lot,” Bishop had said. “The genesis of this concept is really coming from Easterners who live in an urban setting and have no view of what it’s like in the rest of America.”

Afterward, a reporter from Axios asked him about his remarks, wondering how the Green New Deal measured up with genocide. Genocide, the reporter said, is the killing of a large group of people “especially those of a particular ethnic group or nation.”

“I’m an ethnic. I’m a westerner,” Bishop answered, in comments that he said during his Ogden visit were meant sarcastically.

The March 15 press conference wasn’t his only public swat at the Green New Deal.

At a Feb. 27 press conference with other GOP critics, taped by Breitbart News, Bishop pulled a hamburger out of a bag and ate it when it was his turn to address the group. The aim, seemingly, was to underscore what critics say are Green New Deal elements that could forebode an attempted crackdown on cattle because of the greenhouse gases — methane — that the animals expel into the atmosphere via flatulence and burps.

If the Green New deal “goes through, this’ll be outlawed. I can no longer eat this type of thing,” Bishop said, hamburger in hand. “Before it’s illegal and an endangered species, I’m actually going to enjoy this a whole lot more than I would the Green New Deal.”

Now, Green New Deal proponents, Bishop said Friday, “want to get away from, as they say, farting cows.” Still, he offered up what he maintains is an alternative to any move to reduce the ranks of cattle — allowing increased grazing by the animals on public lands. That, theoretically, could spur the sort of plant growth that would lead to natural carbon sequestration.

Bishop’s efforts generated a headline earlier this month in Politico that labeled the lawmaker ”a major thorn” in the Democratic climate change agenda. But Bishop says he’s no hatchet man on the issue for GOPers. “I don’t think I’m the point man in anything,” he said, noting the many other Republican lawmakers who have also railed against the Green New Deal.

He just thinks the Democratic proposal, championed by U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a New York Democrat, is wrong.

“I can clearly see the flaws in it,” he said. “There are a whole lot of options of actually improving the environment with things that don’t have to be radical approaches to it.”

Contact reporter Tim Vandenack at tvandenack@standard.net, follow him on Twitter at @timvandenack or like him on Facebook at Facebook.com/timvandenackreporter.

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