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To be Claire …

July 26th, 2009 · 3 Comments

After highlighting the absurdity of Senator Claire McCaskill’s comments re Global Warming in Twitting Claire and To Twit Claire, a musing step back contemplation. Putting aside simply doing the right thing, recognizing the science, taking the Energy Smart path, and fighting to convince her voters that she’s right as she seeks to put the nation on an Energy Smart path for a prosperous, secure, and climate-friendly future, what “should” (or “could”) Claire McCaskill do when it comes to energy and climate legislation?

Now, a quick moment to review the bidding:

  • Missouri is one of the most coal-dependent states (roughly 83% of its electricity), even though that coal is all imported.
  • Claire has, repeatedly, stated that “Global warming is real,and its a serious problem.”
  • Claire has, repeatedly, stated things like climate legislation ’should not unfairly punish Missouri citizens’ and that she will work with ‘moderates’ to assure that climate legislation doesn’t unfairly punish Missouri businesses and citizens.
  • Missouri residents overwhelmingly voted for moving toward renewable energy, even though the ballot measure explicitly stated that this might mean higher utility bills.

While there many questions to ask Claire, why not seek to help Claire turn this around: Rather than fighting the twisted logic that, somehow, climate legislation will “unfairly punish Missouri’, why not seek to assure that clean energy legislation will ‘unfairly’ favor Missouri?

A simple fact: Claire’s seeming intention to fight to protect Missouri’s archaic and heavily-polluting energy system will foster continuing to dig a deeper hole, on multiple grounds, for Missouri rather than crafting a strategy for a more competitive and prosperous Missouri in the years and decades to come.

Rather than struggling to protect the burning of coal (imported from other states, thus sending Missouri rate-payers’ hard-earned money to other states), couldn’t Claire embrace the two-thirds of Missourians who have voted for clean energy, the two-thirds who embraced a serious renewable electricity standard even though the ballot measure explicitly stated that the measure could (COULD) lead to increased utility bills?

Now, when it came to passing the American Clean Energy and Security (ACES) Act out of the House of Representatives, there were votes ‘bought’ with expenditures (necessary expenditures — but now targeted to specific districts rather than uncertain as to where the jobs would go). Being able to point to X jobs, $Y spending to come in provides powerful press release material for any member of Congress. Rather than embracing delay, rather than seeking some form of false middle ground between science and sufferers of anti-science syndrome, could not Claire step up for Missourians and their future in a far different way than her current strategy?

Huh??? What does this mean?

Consider this alternative path, an outline for Claire McCaskill to follow in negotiating with other Senators and the Obama Administration:

  • Missouri is highly coal dependent with, in fact, a relatively modern coal-burning infrastructure
  • This coal dependency enables relatively low electricity rates.
  • These low rates, however, come at a high cost in terms of pollution damage.
  • Just like all Americans, Missourians want a clean energy future, but to phase out the modern coal-burning infrastructure could prove to be an economic burden.
  • Just as the Federal government helped other portions of the country achieve a clean energy grid (through, for example, building of minor things like the Hoover Dam), America should help Missouri accelerate its way toward a clean energy future in part because so many of the benefits (such as reduced acid raid for New York, reduced burden on the rail lines for moving coal) accrue outside Missouri.

If we were ‘to be Claire’, this could be used to support a request along these lines:

  • Provide additional assistance to Missouri for:
    • Energy efficiency in businesses, homes, public buildings
    • Deploying renewable energy production
  • Establish in Missouri a National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) center focused on biomass energy (along with guaranteed funding for biomass demonstration facilities in Missouri)
  • Request $2 billion per year for these measures (okay, wouldn’t get that, but don’t start with your minimum requirement)

If Claire McCaskill were able to go back to Missouri citizens with a $billion (or $500 million or $1.5 billion) per year in targeted funding that would lead to jobs in Missouri, more Missouri spending staying in Missouri, improved business competitive position, a leadership position in critical arenas for a clean energy future, and savings for Missorians (businesses and housholds) on their energy bills, she would be a hero to the two-thirds plus of Missouri voters who have already demonstrated, in the ballot box, their support for a clean-energy future.

Claire faces a choice. Right now she is regaling, it seems, in portraying herself as “moderate” because she places herself between those concerned about Global Warming and those who simply wish to say no to science and the reality of what we are already seeing around the world.  She can continue this path which will sabotage (both environmentally and fiscally) effective energy / climate legislation or she can carve out a leadership position that advantages her state while helping move the nation (and the globe) forward toward a more prosperous, more secure, more climate-friendly future.

When it comes to “unfairly”, Claire can continue with the truthiness-laden concerns of worrying about ‘unfair punishment’ or she could turn herself to serving her voters by seeking to assure that legislation unfairly benefits Missouri.

Engaging Claire

Now, while Claire is a Twitter addict, far more effective are face-to-face communications and more personal communications (such as hand-written letters) from Missourians.  One of her constituents recently spoke directly with her about how Missouri youth want her to be a leader on climate change.

[Senator McCaskill] listened politely, then in an empathetic voice asked how we felt about China and India’s lack of cooperation in climate change negotiations, referring to the recent G8 summit in Italy. Our delegation of young people in the room clearly were on a different page than her, and responded with enthusiasm that we’d rather start the clean energy transition than follow (in more eloquent words, citing strong investment by China into alternative energy).

Claire responded by turning to speak on the economic difficulty she believes ACES would place on Missourians in particular. She said that she knows “10-15″ manufacturing companies that are on the “bubble” in Missouri, even “one or two” that have already had to move jobs overseas. Claire claimed a “chasm” existed between the current and future energy infrastructures. In sum, her argument was that if we attempt to transition too quickly from our current mode of energy production, many companies (energy and otherwise) would suffer.

Thus, fearful that there might be negative impacts in the short term, Claire is willing to sacrifice the long term: the long term competitiveness of Missouri in a world economy to be dominated by clean energy options and the long term viability of Missouri in the face of ever-mounting Global Warming impacts.

That discussion is worth reading, not just for understanding the chasm between Claire and Missourians concerned about creating a prosperous clean-energy future, but also for a window as to the communication challenge before us:

A door opened in the room- an assistant alerting Claire her next meeting had arrived, so I made my last pitch, telling her that despite how it may appear, there are many in Missouri who believe ACES should be strengthened and passed, especially young people like those before her. “You know what, though?” Claire said, returning to her empathetic tone. She reported that, out of the letters she’s received from Missourians, (approximate numbers) around 200 were “against” ACES and only 10-15 “for”.

Let us assume that this is accurate, just “10-15 [letters] for” action on climate change legislation?  Okay, Missourians, can’t you do better than that?

Now, there is also the question of face-to-face discussions with her staff (a vehicle for communicating with Claire). For example, just tomorrow night, the astroturf Americans for Prosperity (key supports of Tax Day Tea Parties, for example) has a special session set up for tomorrow with a McCaskill staffer.

Town Hall Meeting with Sen. McCaskill’s District Director
Come join us Monday Night in St. Louis
Date: Monday, July 27, 2009
Time: 7:00pm - 8:00pm
Location: St. Louis Community College - Forest Park Campus (Student Center/Highlander Lounge)
Street: 5600 Oakland Ave, Saint Louis, MO

Michelee Sherod, McCaskill’s district director, will be there for this AFP event. (Reminder, AFP calls global warming “hysteria” and scientists presenting the facts on climate change “alarmists”. )  This is an opportunity for  Sen. McCaskill and her staff to hear from the 2/3rds of real Missourians who believe in clean energy and are counting on Claire to help lead on (rather than help degrade)  federal climate change legislation. Imagine if an AFP event is half filled with people calling for respect for science and for action to enhance Missouri’s future.  If you live in St. Louis or the area, join others Missourians who believe in a clean energy future to weigh in with Sen. McCaskill’s office.

Tags: carbon dioxide · climate change · climate legislation

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