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Bill Scher's Posts


How environmentalists win

Recently The New York Times published my op-ed "How Liberals Win," in which I argued that throughout American history, liberal advancements have been mainly achieved with corporate support, and not without. For example, FDR needed corporations to establish basic workplace standards. LBJ needed them to spark a wave of environmental regulation. And Obama needed them to win health care, stimulus, Wall Street reform, higher fuel-efficiency standards, and stronger food-safety rules.

But as you surely know, I was not able to include a cap on carbon emissions on that list. And it might look at first glance that the failure of "cap-and-trade" legislation, which had a multitude of corporate compromises that made environmentalists cringe to varying degrees, debunks my case.

Soon after the bill was left for dead in the Senate,’s Bill McKibben declared, “So now we know what we didn’t before: making nice doesn’t work. It was worth a try, and I’m completely serious when I say I’m grateful they made the effort, but it didn’t even come close to working. So we better try something else … we’re going to need a movement, the one thing we haven’t had.”

Since then, McKibben has moved the environmental community to focus on blocking fossil-fuel projects like the Keystone XL oil pipeline instead of building broad coalitions, which has left out previously supportive unions as well as corporations. And Naomi Klein, in a cover piece for The Nation, took McKibben’s logic several steps further and argued that the environmental movement should merge with the Occupy movement and declare capitalism itself the enemy of the climate.

But not only does their logic fail to account for the reforms President Obama did enact by working with corporations, it also fails to recognize the real reason why the climate bill failed.

It’s not because a liberal-corporate coalition was futile. It’s because at the last minute, the coalition broke apart.


a flush of possibilities

Sen. Rand Paul, I can find you a good toilet!

Sen. Paul has been having toilet nightmares ever since he watched The Conversation back in 1974. Last Thursday, I learned that Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) hasn't had a functioning toilet in his home for 20 years. He seems to believe the federal government is not allowing him to own a functioning toilet. I found this strange, because I own a functioning toilet. And like the senator, I also live in America. So, I thought, perhaps I can help the senator find some relief. But first, I needed to figure out the origin of his problem. He blamed the deputy assistant …


Is global warming frying conservative brains in Alaska and Delaware?

A prediction: The next senator from Delaware will know that global warming is real and will support a cap on carbon emissions. That description fits the Democratic nominee Chris Coons, who is running unopposed in tomorrow's primary, and GOP Rep. Mike Castle. It does not fit Castle's primary opponent, the Tea Party Express-funded Christine O'Donnell. There is absolutely no way O'Donnell can win a Senate seat in Delaware. She is an extreme right-winger in a left-leaning state.  And Castle, who has already served as governor and has repeatedly won statewide as he is the state's only congressperson, presents Republicans with …

Read more: Politics


Who needs jobs and less traffic anyway?

Can conservatives ride the 'no train' to victory?

This week, Wisconsin Republican primary gubernatorial candidate Scott Walker caught the attention of Washington pundits with his latest ad, because it features the candidate attacking President Obama with smug condescension and sarcasm. But I was struck because Walker is betting his campaign on stopping Wisconsin's planned high-speed rail link. Even though it would create jobs. Even though it has already received federal funds. Even though the project has already begun. In fact, as the Wisconsin State Journal reported, Walker believes "the state giving back millions of dollars, even money that's already been spent, would be better than finishing the rail …

Read more: Cities, Politics


Climate Vote Shows Gulf Gusher Changed Nothing In Senate

If you thought one of the biggest oil spills in history would automatically propel strong legislation to cap carbon emissions and avert a climate crisis, think again. Democratic Senate leaders beat back a conservative attempt to kneecap the EPA's ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, but not without six Dems defecting. Only 53 Senators backed the EPA, and even some of those did so reluctantly. And I say "only 53," even though that's a majority, because any climate bill will need 60 votes, period. The Senate voted overwhelmingly last year to prevent climate legislation from being eligible for a simple …

Read more: Politics


Obama's Oil Plan: Something For Nothing? Or Nothing For Something?

Forgive me if my Outrage-O-Meter registers low today despite the President's coastal drilling announcement. Candidate Obama announced his willingness to compromise on coastal drilling quite dramatically during the campaign. And the Senate climate bill talks have been premised on expanded coastal drilling ever since last year's New York Times op-ed from Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). The outlined drilling-nukes-carbon cap deal has long received tacit support from most environmental groups, while keeping business lobbies intrigued. There is no surprise in Obama is making this move. The only surprise is that he did before a climate deal was …

Read more: Politics


The Sideshow Is Closed. No Refunds.

Memo to Politico: Climategate is a flop

Today's Politico headline from Copenhagen is: "Climategate distracts at Copenhagen." This seems based on a very low bar for what constitutes a distraction. Is the international summit torn now between resolutions saying global warming is a moral imperative or a dastardly hoax perpetrated by the sinister scientist conspiracy? Hardly. Is there one country that previously was open to a climate agreement, and now is suddenly abandoning it? Nope. Is there one U.S. Senator changing his or her position on a cap-and-trade bill after the ginned up right-wing hysteria? Not a one. Politico's basis for the headline is: "'Climategate' has muddied …


No More Communiques

Obama headed to Copenhagen, sets the bar for success

President Obama announced today that he will attend the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, raising the stakes for himself and all participating nations. The initial goal for Copenhagen was to forge a binding treaty. But that ambitious goal has been scaled back. With American climate protection legislation bogged down in the Senate after clearing the House, Obama can't put enough commitments on the table to secure a final agreement. Division over how to financially help developing nations respond to global warming also remains far from resolved. But the participating nations do not want Copenhagen to be an exercise …


The Odd Couple

Sen. Lindsey Graham crosses the climate rubicon

Last week, I struck a hopeful note after GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham expressed interest in a climate bill compromise that included a carbon cap in exchange for support for some nuclear power and coastal drilling. But my expectations it would really happen remained low. Today, Graham made a deal all but inevitable. Final compromise language is far from complete. But for the conservative South Carolinian to explicitly back "aggressive reductions in our emissions of the carbon gases that cause climate change" (!) in a joint op-ed with Massachusetts liberal Sen. John Kerry (!!) published in pages of New York Times …



Are there GOP senators who will back the climate bill?

In July, I speculated that Sen. Lamar Alexander might lead some Republicans to back a climate protection bill if Democratic leaders made some concessions regarding nuclear power. The prospect was tantalizing, as I noted then: "The Democratic caucus is not solid enough on climate issues to presume GOP votes are unneeded. Anyone giving a positive signal is at least worth feeling out." But Alexander quickly buried that possibility, setting wildly impossible goals for nuclear and ramping up intellectually incoherent attacks on the House climate bill. Now, the possibility of Republican support for "cap and trade" legislation is getting renewed attention. …