A lot has changed since 2008, when there was a broader GOP consensus that aggressive legislation was needed to confront global warming
Supporting a cap-and-trade approach to greenhouse gas regulation is basically taboo in the GOP these days, but most of the top-tier Republican presidential contenders have backed it in the past.
Just a few short years ago, John McCain supported cap-and trade as a Republican presidential candidate, after he pushed for it in a bill he coauthored with Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.). In April of 2007, McCain talked up cap-and-trade in a speech on his energy plan at the Center for Strategic and International Studies:
I have proposed a bipartisan plan to address the problem of climate change and stimulate the development and use of advanced technologies. It is a market-based approach that would set reasonable caps on carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions, and provide industries with tradable credits. By reducing its emissions, a utility or industrial plant can generate credits it may trade on the open market for a profit, offering a powerful incentive to drive the deployment of new and better energy sources and technologies; for automakers to develop new ways to lower pollution and increase mileage; for utilities to generate cleaner electricity and capture carbon; for appliance manufacturers to make more efficient products, and for the nation to use energy with maximum efficiency-building conservation into the economy in a manner that produces financial and environmental benefits.
Nowadays, you'd be hard pressed to find a Republican who supports the policy, after conservatives railed for two years against "cap-and-tax" as a job-killing government overreach. Backlash against the policy helped Republicans take over the House in November, after House Democrats passed Rep. Henry Waxman's (D-Calif.) cap-and-trade bill in June 2009 over resistance from the GOP minority. Republican candidates campaigned against cap-and-trade en masse in 2010, and it worked out in their favor.
After all that, Republican White House hopefuls have revised their previously held energy stances.
Former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty supported cap-and-trade in 2007 but has since urged Congress to reject it. He won plaudits from RedState's Erick Erickson for apologizing for his prior cap-and-trade support in the first Republican presidential debate, held last week in South Carolina.