Wall Street Journal puzzled by a climate, clean energy and security bill that achieves multiple benefits

Someone directed me to this odd post from the normally reliable and politically savvy WSJ “Environmental Capital” blog:

Shadow Boxing: What’s The Climate Bill’s Real Goal?

At the risk of stating the blindingly obvious, it seems like the biggest problem with the Senate energy and climate bill is that nobody knows exactly what it’s for.

Clean-tech executives that descended on Washington this week see it fundamentally as a jobs bill, meant to kickstart the U.S. clean-energy industry. That’s a view shared by Energy Secretary Steven Chu: “The cost of not doing something is we will lose the chance to lead in this next Industrial Revolution,” Dr. Chu said Wednesday.

Couldn’t agree more, said Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown””jobs are indeed the key to passing any legislation. Not clean-energy jobs, though””existing manufacturing jobs in the heartland.

“This bill is written to deal with climate change and it’s written as a jobs bill,” he said, explaining why protectionism is the key to curbing greenhouse-gas emissions. Which happens to be almost exactly the opposite approach of some big companies, such as General Electric.

Yes, it’s a jobs bill, says Sen. John Kerry; the bill’s title reflects that. But for the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and President Obama, it’s about a lot more. “The message [Obama] wanted to get over is he’s committed to moving forward,” Sen. Kerry said. “He views it as a critical. It’s a job creator. A national security priority.”

What does that mean? Does that refer to the possible national-security implications of climate change? Or does that mean national security as in energy security?

[Answer to WSJ:  Both!]

Is there really so little to blog about in the vast energy and environmental arena that the WSJ has to spin up this non-story?  Senator Kerry (and many others, including CP) have written and spoken at great length for a long time about the fact that any bill would have multiple benefits.

Unlike the WSJ, however, most of us think that’s actually a good thing.  I think it kind of silly to attack the bill because, say, avoiding catastrophic global warming and reducing oil consumption, is good for both national security and energy security or because solving those problems will generate millions of new jobs (and, yes, even preserve existing manufacturing jobs) or because more than one technology or strategy will be needed to achieve those goals:

Republicans certainly like the energy-security idea. That gives more room for natural gas, nuclear power, and offshore oil and gas drilling in the bill. That trifecta is shaping up as one way to actually broaden political support for the bill.

Unless it erodes political support for the bill. “You’re trying to solve a climate crisis and you are going to drill for more oil?” asked Jim Riccio of Greenpeace. “How does that make any sense whatsoever?” (To be fair, Greenpeace lambasted Congressional efforts even without extra support for oil, gas, or nuclear power.)

Yes, to be fair, WSJ, your example doesn’t actually support your argument!

And, to be fair, natural gas and nuclear power are in fact global warming solutions — more so than they are energy security solutions, since neither of those directly substitute for oil very much these days.

Granted, the whole point of wrapping the energy bill and the climate bill together is to sweeten the environmental pill and give the bill at least a fighting chance of passage.

But the Senate bill, which isn’t even written yet, is turning into a Rorschach blot. Everybody’s projecting their hopes, fears and phantoms. That may be good politics. It’s not clear that’s good policy.

I’m sure the WSJ blog is savvy enough to understand that every major bill that passes Congress represents a compromise among different groups and thus includes provisions of that any individual supporter might not adopt if they were king or queen.  But, as I’ve said, the oil is a drop in the figurative bucket, maybe 0.1% of global production.

I’m also sure the WSJ realize is that we face two major environmental/energy problems — global warming plus our absurd and growing dependence on one fossil fuel in particular that appears to be peaking in supply.  Solving both of those problems at the same time is in fact good policy.  And there is a lot of evidence it’s also good politics (see Lindsay Graham (R-SC): “If you had a bill that would allow for responsible offshore drilling, a robust nuclear power title, I think you could get some Republican votes for a cap-and-trade system.”).

6 Responses to Wall Street Journal puzzled by a climate, clean energy and security bill that achieves multiple benefits

  1. Robert Brulle says:

    How many jobs will this bill create? I have not been able to find an objective analysis of how many old jobs will be displaced, and new jobs created. It isn’t in the CBO analysis of the Waxman-Markey bill. But there must be some job loss, since the bill includes a retraining provision.

    Robert Brulle PhD
    Drexel University

    [JR: UMass Amherst and CAP have calculated 1.7 million. Another recent study comes up with similar numbers. I calculated the bill will drive over $100 billion in annual investment, which is, again, in the 2 million range.]

  2. PeterW says:

    Hi Joe, This is off topic. I believe you did a piece regarding McIntyre’s assertion that Hadley was removing the raw temperature data from public access. A friend at work posted an article from (of all places) by Frank J. Tipler that rehashes this. I think you posted links to the data if I recalled correctly, but I haven’t be able to find it. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks.

    Climate Data: Top Secret!

  3. mike says:

    Anthony Watts (Watts TF) is all over this important (non) story

  4. Robert Brulle says:

    Is that net job increases – including those lost in coal mining, etc. or just new green jobs added? The Pew Center for Climate Change says that the idea of either huge job losses or gains related to Waxman Markey is a myth Since I have no way of knowing myself, how can we sort this out?

    Robert Brulle

  5. hapa says:

    “But the Senate bill, which isn’t even written yet, is turning into a Rorschach blot. Everybody’s projecting their hopes, fears and phantoms. That may be good politics. It’s not clear that’s good policy.”

    i guess the chatter has too many ‘jobs’ in it for the WSJ’s liking. they’re somewhat dense — if it were renamed “the write wall street a big fat blank clean tech check bill” they would understand it better.

  6. Robert Brulle says:

    Yet more confusion. According to a UC Berkeley study, the total net change over 10 years (2010-2020) will be between 918,000 and 1,897,00 additional jobs

    This works out to 100K – 200K new jobs per year. While this is a positive increase, it isn’t the millions that others state. With this big of a variance, how can we know what is really going on here?

    Robert Brulle