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Delivering the post mortem on climate legislation’s failure …

July 26th, 2010 · 3 Comments

If the US Senate has, collectively, any substantive understanding of science, concern about American security, and desire for American prosperity into the future, there will be climate legislation. Sadly, with Anti-Science Syndrome suffering Haters Of a Livable Economic Society dominating one of America’s two major political parties and with Climate Peacocks mewing their way around the Senate, the propects are dim that climate legislation will be resurrected in the US Senate any time soon.

As the funeral dirge continues, there are many obituaries being written.

Let us be clear, the environment is difficult for moving forward sensible legislation on energy, the environment, and climate change.

  1. There are serious ideological reasons that are fighting against concerted government action.
  2. The Republican Party seems determined that Nancy Reagan provided the greatest fount of political wisdom in history. When it comes to the opiate of working on legislation to improve Americans’ lives, JUST SAY NO!
  3. There is serious money behind fighting any change to the status quo.  Oil companies, coal companies, natural gas companies, and so on earn significant amounts of money and they seek to maximize their near-term shareholder profits (and executive bonuses) no matter what the long-term costs might be.
  4. U.S. society is energy (and, well, science) illiterate … in part because …
  5. The media has utterly failed in its societal duty, providing faux-and-balanced coverage of climate change issues (he says, she says reporting) in a coverage of debate (horse race type coverage) rather than focusing on truthful reporting.

But, at the end of the day …

Joe Romm (Climate Progress) and Tim Dickinson (Rolling Stone) The New York Times editorial page and others are laying the blame squarely on the welcoming mat to the Oval Office. The Times concluded

There is no chance unless Mr. Obama comes out fighting: calling out the Republicans, shaming and rallying Democratic laggards and explaining to the American people that global warming and oil dependency are clear and present threats to American security.

There is much power to this argument.  The most significant problem with Romm’s The Failed Presidency of Barack Obama? That the question mark should have been part of the title.

Yes, the environment is quite difficult for progress and, yes, “he volunteered to take command of the Titanic after it hit the iceberg”, but, at the end of the day, does the buck stop there?

The White House (or at least some in the Administration) seem to lamely want to blame environmentalists for the failure.

One exasperated administration official on Thursday lambasted the environmentalists – led by the Environmental Defense Fund – for failing to effectively lobby GOP senators.

“They didn’t deliver a single Republican,” the official told POLITICO. “They spent like $100 million and they weren’t able to get a single Republican convert on the bill.”

While there is much truth to the line that environmental organizations “failed” and I have had my criticisms of the tactics of many of them, it is hard to see where one can look to EDF or Sierra Club or Alliance for Climate Protection for the responsibility to leverage Just Say No Republicans to the table.

In a variation of this, Bryan Walsh finishes Why the climate bill died :

Just as Reid knew a carbon cap couldn’t get the 60 votes now needed to get anything passed in the recalcitrant Senate, ultimately the threat of global warming didn’t galvanize the public to the point where they would demand change. There are lots of reasons for this—disinformation campaigns by fossil fuel interests, the overblown controversy of “climategate,” a media corps that too rarely puts global warming in the right context. But until that changes—and the public demands change—ambitious climate legislation will remain dead.

And, there is Tom Friedman  with We’re going to be sorry

I could blame Republicans for the fact that not one G.O.P. senator indicated a willingness to vote for a bill that would put the slightest price on carbon. I could blame the Democratic senators who were also waffling. I could blame President Obama for his disappearing act on energy and spending more time reading the polls than changing the polls. I could blame the Chamber of Commerce and the fossil-fuel lobby for spending bags of money to subvert this bill. But the truth is, the public, confused and stressed by the last two years, never got mobilized to press for this legislation. We will regret it.

It is the public’s fault …

The public wanted single payer or, at least, public option. Yet …

The public wanted accountability for Wall Street. Yet …

The public wants BP’s execs’ heads on a platter. Yet …

In the face of a vicious ideological war, massive amounts of distorting propaganda, horrid media coverage of factual issues, environmental organization playing behind-the-scenes negotiation, complicated horse-trading filled legislation, and a President who seemed disengaged (despite many speeches), it is the public’s fault that we don’t have climate legislation?

Interesting / valuable discussions include:

  1. Bryan Walsh, Time, Why the climate bill died and Cap and Trade is Dead (Really, Truly, I’m Not Kidding). Who’s to Blame?
  2. Michael Levi, Why Green Jobs Couldn’t Sell The Climate Bill is an interesting discussion of why ‘green jobs’ is not as powerful an argument as many think.
  3. Lee Wasserman, Four Ways to Kill a Climate Bill
  4. Joe Romm, The Failed Presidency of Barack Obama

And, sigh, many more …

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Tags: cap and trade · climate change · climate legislation · Congress · Energy · energy efficiency · politics

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