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.”).