Why are we letting pro-fossil fuel bozos hijack the only forum that environmentalists and climate-change activists have for wrestling with the daunting task of transforming America?
A few posts back I big-upped Jon Tester for killing the liquid coal mandate coal-state Republicans tried to attach to the Senate EPW energy bill (which passed committee last week). I should add, lest things get too darn cheery around here, that the bill itself is largely focused on boosting ethanol. And you know how Gristmillians feel about that. So.
I love Robert Wright’s thinking and his work, particularly NonZero. It’s not explicitly green, so I won’t get into it — here’s a good rundown — but I will encourage everyone to watch this short talk Wright gave at TED last year:
I want to send word to our American friends to tell them they can count on our friendship, which has been forged by the tragedies of history that we have confronted together. I want to tell them that France will always be at their side when they need her. But I also want to tell them that friendship is accepting that friends can think differently, and that a great nation like the United States should not be an obstacle to the fight against global warming, but on the contrary should take the lead because the future of all humanity is …
((brightlines_include)) It is within the capacity of U.S. environmentalists to refocus our energies on a tougher, more realistic climate agenda. We have the necessary resources, skills (in alumni as well as current staff and leadership), political power, and principles of action. The things we lack -- a national structure, institutional support services, strategic planning, a dedicated environmentalist core -- could be put in place if it were a priority. Cost, it must be emphasized, is not the problem. U.S. environmentalists are spending between $100 and $150 million on climate, according to an unpublished foundation report, more than enough to launch the sort of effort presented here. The problem is nicely illustrated by comparing this challenge to the effort to shift from petroleum to renewables. Just as it is extremely difficult to replace fossil fuels by developing renewables when energy demand is rising, so it is tough for environmentalists to drop a program that is financially rewarding, familiar, and effective (at least by comparison to the last decade). U.S. environmentalists are proceeding on a self-reinforcing, linear trajectory, just as fossil-fuel extraction companies are. The environmentalist "market" is dominated by a few major players, employing familiar fundraising and advocacy technologies, competing in three narrow areas (political access, membership support, foundation funding), all of which cut against alternative approaches. Economies of scale have been achieved for our present agenda; indeed, the market is experiencing explosive growth and each additional increment of investment reaps tremendous benefits. To the extent that a pan-environmentalist culture exists, our worldview does not accept the precautionary climate science view. That being said, environmentalists are not oil company executives and our organizations cannot continue much further on our present track -- the already significant contradiction between climate science findings and environmentalist solutions will shortly become to large to bridge.
The torpor with which we here in the U.S. are responding to strong, clear, and persistent signals that the old era -- of abundant cheap energy in a stable climate -- is ending is nothing short of astonishing. The fact that supposedly serious people could have a debate about tourism vs. offshore wind turbines is astounding. Implicit in such a discussion is the premise that tourism is going to continue even if we don't build a lot of ways to attain a lot of non-fossil energy. Perhaps the best best way to understand stories like that is to consult a book outside the "environmental" section -- an oldie about what happens when people in power ignore strong, clear, and persistent signals that what they're doing isn't making it: The March of Folly by Barbara Tuchman.
Over on MyDD, Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.) discusses the carbon tax bill he recently introduced. My legislation, the Save Our Climate Act (H.R. 2069), would tax coal, petroleum and natural gas at a rate of $10 per ton of carbon content. Applied when these fossil fuels are initially removed from the ground, the tax would increase by $10 each year, freezing when a mandated report by the Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Energy determines that carbon dioxide emissions have decreased by 80 percent from 1990 levels. As far as I know, this is the first real carbon tax …
A delegation of grassroots groups from around Appalachia will be at the UN's Commission on Sustainable Development meetings this week to discourage further MTR abuse and advocate for alternatives (More on them here: www.stopmtr.org). New Yorkers, turn up for this if you can:
Huge Gristmill big-ups to Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), who late last week cast a crucial vote in the Senate EPW committee to scuttle a coal-to-liquid amendment. The committee’s been trying to craft an energy package; they had agreed to table contentious issues like CTL for open debate on the floor, but Sen. Craig Thomas (R-Wyo) put forth his measure anyway. It would have created a substantial mandate for liquid coal fuels — 21 billion gallons annually by 2022 — and could have killed the bill entirely. Tester isn’t against coal. He supports it; he’s from a coal state. But as …
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