David Roberts

David Roberts

Energy, politics, and more

David Roberts is a staff writer for Grist. You can subscribe to his RSS feed or follow him on Twitter or email him at droberts at grist dot org, if you're into that sort of thing.

Congressional disarray

Congress strips Arctic Refuge drilling from budget legislation; still has to delay vote

Let me make us the last political blog on the planet to note events in the House yesterday, wherein an outbreak of spine among moderate Republicans triggered an almost total meltdown of the Republican command structure. Empowered by Democratic unanimity, Rep. Charles Bass (R-NH) led a group of 25 moderate House R's (anybody got a list of these folks?) in demanding that Arctic Refuge drilling be stripped from the budget-reconciliation bill. Bass' group is insisting the deal last "through conference," meaning they won't vote for it if it reemerges from conference committee with drilling reinserted. But remember, for some in the House, refuge drilling is the white friggin' whale. It's Moby Dick. So of course a group of Ahabs put their foot down when they heard their precious whale might escape. Thus, even after this pained concession, Republican leadership and unity broke down and the vote was delayed until next Tuesday. (Meanwhile, in the Senate, Olympia Snowe put the kibosh on the Bush administration's treasured extension of tax cuts for dividends and capital gains.) Fireworks will resume next week. It's been pretty good drama so far, but if these House moderates stay strong, and the budget reconciliation bill dies, it will be a major story -- a very public knee to the groin of the House Republican leadership, legendary for its ability to twist arms. You know how it works for a bully -- once he gets his first ass kicking, he can never recapture the old mystique. Stay tuned. (Good thoughts from Carl Pope, Matt Yglesias, and Mark Schmitt.)

Uh oh

Dover, PA's in big trouble! On today's 700 Club, Rev. Pat Robertson took the opportunity to strongly rebuke voters in Dover, PA who removed from office school board members who supported teaching faith-based "intelligent design" and instead elected Democrats who opposed bringing up the possibility of a Creator in the school system's science curriculum. Rev. Robertson warned the people of Dover that God might forsake the town because of the vote. "I'd like to say to the good citizens of Dover. If there is a disaster in your area, don't turn to God, you just rejected Him from your city. And don't wonder why He hasn't helped you when problems begin, if they begin. I'm not saying they will, but if they do, just remember, you just voted God out of your city. And if that's the case, don't ask for His help because he might not be there." (Via Pharyngula)

House moderates: Little, late

Lest you start feeling twinges of fondness for Republican moderates thanks to their recent move to save the Arctic Refuge, remember that a) they've been totally passive in the face of five years of monstrosities, and b) the very legislation they've stripped refuge drilling out of itself remains a monstrosity. Sam Rosenfeld puts it well: The House leadership's decision to rescind the ANWR drilling measure from the reconciliation bill is being spun as a sign of the new power of the erstwhile pitiful Republican moderates. There's a tiny bit of truth to that. But really, the fact that enough of them are now saying explicitly that removing that provision is sufficient to ensure the bill's passage is more pathetic than impressive. The ANWR provision is in the Senate version of the spending bill; leadership assurances to the House moderates that the measure won't return in a conference report should be taken with a grain of salt. Much more importantly, the rest of the bill is nearly unchanged, and is loaded with atrocities that moderate Republicans have spent plenty of time wringing their hands over but show little inclination to take action against. This is another example of what I was talking about yesterday: For some reason it's become safe or convenient for righties to start making concessions or taking stands on the environment. But this budget reconciliation bill still contains drastic spending cuts for kids and poor people. Do greens stand down now that they got what they wanted? Or do they continue to fight on behalf of other elements of the progressive coalition?

Editorial hope springs eternal

What's with the editorial writers at the New York Times and the Washington Post? What does it take for political reality to sink in? An unsigned NYT editorial bashing Bush on global warming -- particularly for his opposition to mandatory emissions limits -- says this: Meanwhile, Mr. Bush's staunch and patient friend, Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain, has once again - this time in The Observer - appealed to the president to join in a global effort to limit greenhouse gases. Well, not exactly. Blair's Observer editorial is notable precisely because it marks his rather conspicuous break from the Kyoto (read: mandatory emission limits) crowd. He's pleading with Bush to join a worldwide effort to develop clean-energy technology. His "staunch and patient" friendship continues to consist entirely of him attempting to accommodate Bush in exchange for ... nothing. The WaPo editorial board thinks, well gosh, here's the chance Bush has been looking for to abandon his retrograde position on climate change and hop aboard the multilateral train: What is clear is that Mr. Blair's initiative offers an excellent opening for Mr. Bush. The president, who has benefited from Mr. Blair's support, should say he supports the prime minister's initiative, wants to leave the Kyoto dispute behind and is ready to address climate change issues, actively and enthusiastically, in an international forum once again. They argue earnestly that this is the right thing to do, because climate science has made it indisputable that warming is a problem. Bush should reciprocate Blair's friendship. He should join a multilateral agreement. He should admit he's been wrong about climate change. Meanwhile, back on planet earth ...

King Coal’s beheading of Appalachia

I keep meaning to say something about this excellent NYT op-ed on mountaintop-removal mining, but I never seem to have time, so ... just go read it.

Kabuki

It is amusing to watch Republican senators trapped between their two main constituencies: the oil industry and, uh, their constituents. Voters are pissed about high gas prices and home-heating costs, and they can't help but notice that oil companies are swimming in huge piles of cash. Of course Republicans aren't going to do anything that might offend the oil industry, but they need to look like they're doing something. What's the answer? A hearing! So they drag five oil executives to Congress. The results defy parody. Virtually every paragraph of this Reuters story is a masterpiece of black humor. It begins: Under fire for high fuel prices, five major oil companies on Wednesday warned the U.S. Senate against levying a windfall profits tax and showed little interest in donating money to help poor Americans pay winter heating bills. Well, that should set voters' minds at ease! But it immediately gets even better:

Divide and conquer?

It strikes me that Wal-Mart and Arnold Schwarzenegger are doing something similar: trying to peel eco-activists off from the larger progressive coalition. And while two data points don't exactly make a trend, it's something greens should be pondering. Consider: Wal-Mart recently announced some high-profile and fairly substantial sustainability reforms. Meanwhile, as this collection of Alternet coverage amply demonstrates, they continue to screw workers, bust unions, skimp on health care, and drive out local businesses. Somewhere in some boardroom, the calculation was obviously made that the company could afford some sustainability, and that it would help deflect activist attention, but that other reforms would cut too deep into the bottom line. Schwarzenegger, meanwhile, has not been perfect on green issues, but has presided over some remarkably forward-thinking reforms, most notably California's landmark auto-emissions limits. Yet, as Kevin Drum points out, for the most part he's been a "standard issue business-pandering Republican." Of course, Wal-Mart is getting bashed now more than ever, and Arnold's very expensive slate of state initiatives just got crushed, so the strategy doesn't seem to be working. But still, it's something to think about: If environmentalists get what they want (or at least some of it), should they overlook egregious misconduct in the areas of, say, labor and healthcare? How strongly do greens stand with the progressive coalition?

Weird science

Kansas School Board redefines science

The Kansas Board of Education has hit on an innovative way to stop the abuse of science: They just passed new science-curriculum standards that "rewrite the definition of science, holding that it no longer is limited to searching for natural explanations for natural phenomena."

Kucinich's resolution

Is Kucinich politicizing science?

Last week, Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) introduced to the Congressional record a Resolution of Inquiry (H. Res. 515), cosigned by around 150 House Democrats, "demanding that the White House submit to Congress all documents in their possession relating to the anticipated effects of climate change on the coastal regions of the United States." (Press release; PDF of the resolution.) The idea, according to InsideEPA.com (as quoted by Roger Pielke Jr. -- I don't have the required subscription), is to put pressure on moderate Republicans, who are increasingly coming around on the climate-change issue. Observers say the ROI will present House Science Committee Chairman SHERWOOD BOEHLERT (R-NY), Rep. VERNON EHLERS (R-MI) and Rep. WAYNE GILCHREST (R-MD) with a critical choice between siding with their party in deflecting attention from the president's climate policies and their environmental records, which have won them praise and endorsements from environmental groups. Their decisions on the matter may prove crucial during their 2006 primaries, where at least one is expected to face a tough fight against a more conservative GOP candidate. What to make of this?

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