When it comes to climate and energy, most political attention has focused on Democrats, which makes perfect sense — they’re in the majority and they’re the ones putting together a bill.
Photo: Jared Rodriguez/truthout.org via FlickrBut it is worth pausing periodically to contemplate the utter corruption and intellectual bankruptcy of today’s Republican Party. Darren Samuelsohn has a great story in Politico today noting that Republicans in the Senate are absolutely united in their refusal to work with Democrats on … well, anything, but specifically this energy bill. In particular, they are united in their opposition to the one policy that virtually every energy analyst and a growing majority of businesses agree is the core of a credible energy strategy: a price on carbon pollution.
This is true even of the few remaining (purported) “moderates” on the Republican side, like Sens. Dick Lugar (Ind.), George Voinovich (Ohio), and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), who are abandoning their previous willingness to act responsibly in favor of slavish obedience to their retrograde caucus leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.). Lugar says before we price carbon pollution, “we really need to know more.” What does that mean? This policy has been on the table for 30 years, scrutinized to a faretheewell by every agency in the government and dozens of independent analysts, and implemented by numerous other countries and dozens of U.S. states. What does Lugar want to know, exactly? When the teabaggers are going to release his testicles?
Look at this remarkable passage:
Several energy industry officials — preferring certainty from Congress this year ahead of expected EPA climate rules next year — are upset about the GOP’s reluctance to work with Democrats on the climate bill.
“Bottom line is why would they want to try to kill it at all when coal faces a barrage of regulations,” one power company source said. “Without putting a price on carbon, it will be very difficult to build nuclear or put money into clean coal, etc. We are moving to a totally natural gas future, and they are not helping spur jobs or helping the coal industry by not working collectively to solve the problem.”
This is an underappreciated phenomenon: With a few exceptions, most people in the business community want Congress to act on this. They need to know the rules of the game; they need to be making 40- and 50-year investments. Republicans aren’t even serving their interests any more. They have drifted into their own hermetically sealed world, utterly dominated by their teabagger fringe.
One last point. I’m surprised Darren let this pass:
Republican leaders counter that they’ve pitched their own alternatives — more nuclear power, incentives for electric cars — that are much less expensive but that could make a sizable shift in the nation’s energy future. The fate of big-ticket climate legislation, Republicans say, rests on the Democrats and not their members.
This has become the standard Republican line: We offer weak, useless alternatives that justify our opposition to anything real or efficacious. But Darren shouldn’t let them get away with saying their energy alternatives are “much less expensive.”
The whole point of pricing carbon is that it pays for all the incentives. The Waxman-Markey bill and the Senate climate bill would both reduce the deficit; Republican alternatives (and Bingaman’s weak-ass energy bill) would increase it. Good climate policy is good fiscal policy.
Republican plans to lavish the industries and technologies they favor with subsidies — which is called “picking winners” when Democrats do it — are new spending that’s not paid for. They are, by definition, “more expensive” than alternatives that are paid for.
This is a key aspect of the climate debate on which the mainstream media has utterly dropped the ball: Democratic plans on climate and energy are not only more environmentally credible, they are more fiscally credible. Republican plans would achieve less at greater total cost to federal coffers.
Republicans today are driven entirely by the one principle that remains of a once-proud conservative intellectual tradition: absolute, unremitting opposition to any means of raising revenue. That’s it. The fate of the climate is, like everything else, secondary. Yet the media just takes their intransigent opposition for granted. It hardly seems worth remarking any more. And they never pay a political price for it. In these circumstances, the country is ungovernable and the climate problem simply can’t be solved.