Anatomy of a Senate climate bill death

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"Anatomy of a Senate climate bill death"

This is a cross post by CAP’s Daniel J. Weiss.

President Barack Obama took office with four major domestic agenda items: a plan to prevent the recession from growing worse and launch recovery; health care reform; financial reform to avoid future meltdowns; and clean energy and global warming legislation to create jobs, reduce oil use, and cut pollution. The president succeeded with the first three items. But clean energy legislation died in the Senate after passing the House.

The October 6, 2010 New Yorker has a “behind the curtain” dissection of the rise and fall of climate legislation in the Senate. It provides an interesting insider view of the always messy legislative process.

Reporter Ryan Lizza details some senators’ admirable willingness to stretch beyond their comfort zones on some energy issues to cement an agreement that would establish declining limits on carbon dioxide and other global warming pollutants while allowing more offshore oil drilling and subsidies for nuclear power. He also notes the critical miscommunications and different approaches by senators and the Obama administration that reduced prospects for success.

Lizza gives short shrift, however, to the real reasons Senate passage of climate legislation was impossible in 2010: the deep recession, unified and uncompromising opposition in the Senate, and big spending by oil, coal, and other energy interests. Let’s take a close look at these factors.

The Great Recession took its toll

Many economists described this latest recession as the worst since the Great Depression in the 1930s. Economists Alan Blinder and Mark Zandi note in the July 2010 report “How the Great Recession was Brought to an End:”

Eighteen months ago, the global financial system was on the brink of collapse and the U.S. was suffering its worst economic downturn since the 1930s. Real GDP was falling at about a 6% annual rate, and monthly job losses averaged close to 750,000. Today, the financial system is operating much more normally, real GDP is advancing at a nearly 3% pace, and job growth has resumed, albeit at an insufficient pace. [Emphasis added]

The economic decline sped up just as President Barack Obama took office. Unemployment jumped from 6.2 percent on Labor Day 2008 to 8.2 percent by President Obama’s State of the Union on February 24, 2009. Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman noted in March 2009, “At first, the current recession didn’t hit industrial production all that hard. But the pace accelerated dramatically last fall. At this point we’re sort of experiencing half a Great Depression. That’s pretty bad.”

After unemployment peaked at 10.1 percent in October 2009 the jobs picture has not gotten significantly better. The Bureau of Labor Statistics just announced September 2010 unemployment rate held steady at 9.6 percent. AP reported that “The jobless rate has now topped 9.5 percent for 14 straight months, the longest stretch since the 1930s.”

These and other effects of the recession significantly added to many Americans’ long-term economic uncertainty or fear. And this economic environment made politicians much more susceptible to Big Oil, dirty coal, and other special interests’ “tired dance, where folks inside this beltway get paid a lot of money to say things that aren’t true about public health initiatives,” as noted by EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. This includes skewed studies funded by the oil industry that predicted that global warming pollution reductions would devastate the economy.

The terrible economy and growing unemployment made it much more difficult to pass clean energy and global warming legislation. In fact, an analysis of the unemployment rate when fundamental environmental protection laws were enacted since Earth Day 1970 found that the annual unemployment rate was 6 percent or lower most of the year of enactment. [1] (see chart)

unemployment levels when environmental laws passed 

[2.] (See key below.)

The first Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (hazardous waste disposal) were all enacted when unemployment was 6 percent or lower. Unemployment is 50 percent higher now. Only four major environmental laws were enacted with annual unemployment over 7 percent, and none with unemployment greater than 7.5 percent. Unemployment averaged 9.3 percent in 2009 and 9.7 through September 2010.

In other words, the worst unemployment in nearly 30 years made the up-hill climb to pass a global warming bill even steeper. And certainly the special interests’ opposed to action on global warming played on Americans’ concern about unemployment to frighten senators into opposing global warming action.

For instance, the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association urged strong opposition to the APA:

The draconian carbon reduction targets and timetables in this bill would trigger destructive change in America’s economic climate. This would add billions of dollars in energy costs for American families and businesses, destroy the jobs of millions of American workers, and make our nation more dependent on foreign energy sources”¦If senators want to increase the loss of manufacturing jobs in the United States and postpone the resurgence of the American economy, then they should vote for this bill.

The American Petroleum Institute bought a series of television, radio, and print ads threatening job killing energy taxes. Its homepage headline reads, “More jobs not more taxes.”

The heavily funded U.S. Chamber of Commerce has also poured money into defeating climate and clean energy action for the last several years. More recently, the Big Coal backed Faces of Coal front group staged rallies in protest of EPA’s proposed global warming pollution regulations with signs reading “Coal Keeps the Lights on,” and “Coal Miners ‘Dig’ Their Jobs.”

Whatever it is, we’re against it!

As if high unemployment weren’t enough, Senate advocates of clean energy and global warming pollution reduction legislation had to contend with Senate rules that allow unlimited debate.

This required bill sponsors to persuade a 60-vote “supermajority” to end debate and pass their bill. With several Democrats unalterably opposed to action to reduce global warming the sponsors needed support from at least four or five Republican senators.

Lizza describes that this was difficult to achieve because opposition to global warming pollution reductions had grown in GOP ranks. What’s more, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) convinced his senators that their route to the majority was a solid wall of opposition to whatever President Obama wanted to do for the nation.

Lizza reported that:

The Republican Party had grown increasingly hostile to the science of global warming and to cap-and-trade, associating the latter with a tax on energy and more government regulation. Sponsoring the bill wasn’t going to help McCain defeat an opponent to his right.

By not automatically resisting everything connected to Obama, these senators risked angering Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader and architect of the strategy to oppose every part of Obama’s agenda, and the Tea Party movement, which seemed to be gaining power every day.

Sens. John Kerry (D-MA), Joe Lieberman (I-CT), and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) (before he dropped out), the champions of climate legislation, could never break this wall of opposition or neutrality even among Republican senators who had previously sponsored or voted for global warming legislation.

This includes Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who sponsored multiple global warming pollution reduction bills and advocated significant reductions during his 2008 presidential campaign. Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) also co-sponsored global warming bills in previous Congresses. Nearly four years ago Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) said: “It seems to me just prudent that we recognize we have climate increase and temperature change. We have CO2 loading and we need to reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere.”

Yet none of these senators publicly supported action or engaged in serious negotiations with key climate legislation crafters Sens. Kerry, Lieberman, or Graham in 2010.

This Republican lockstep opposition to the energy bill and other Democratic priorities is reflected in Senate floor voting patterns. Congressional Quarterly developed a “Party Unity” score based on the proportion of votes that “pitted a majority of one party against a majority of the other.” Such votes reflect that each party’s position was different, and a majority of the senators voted with their party.

The proportion of these party-unity votes have increased significantly over the last 20 years. (see chart) In the 101st Congress, serving from 1989-90, less than half the Senate votes were party-unity votes. Before 2009, the highest proportion of Senate party-unity votes occurred in the 104th Congress, from 1995-96. This was the so-called “Contract with America” Congress with the first Republican majority in both houses since 1953.

party unity voting trends by congressional term

Republican leaders in 2009, however, adopted a strategy of opposing President Obama on every major legislative effort to deny him victories that would enhance his popularity. Seventy-two percent of Senate votes, therefore, were party unity votes. This grew to 79 percent in 2010, which means nearly four of five votes were along party lines.

The 111th Congress also saw an increase in the proportion of Republican senators voting with their party majority. Eighty-five percent of Republicans voted with their party in 2009, while that increased to 90 percent in 2010. By comparison, there were only 3 of 10 previous Congresses when Republicans were more unified.

Congressional Quarterly describes the increased Senate polarization in 2010.

Almost four out of five roll call votes in the Senate have pitted a majority of Democrats against a majority of Republicans””the highest percentage of so-called party-unity votes seen since Congressional Quarterly began tabulating them in 1953.

Most telling, however, is the support accorded President Obama on the 51 Senate roll calls this year”¦ where he took a position. On average, Democrats supported him 95 percent of the time, up from 92 percent in 2009. And Republicans backed away from their 50 percent average presidential support score last year to vote with Obama just 42 percent of the time so far this election year.

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), a conservative Democrat and no ally of global warming legislation, noted that the Senate Republican caucus had become more unified in opposition to Democrats. She said: “This Republican Party’s not the one it used to be. There were moderates that would reach out with those of us that were moderate on the other side, but that’s not the direction they’re going in.”

The best bill money could stop

The House of Representatives passed the American Clean Energy and Security Act on June 26, 2009. This bill was supported by some major companies and trade associations, including the Edison Electric Institute and the Nuclear Energy Institute.

Fear of a consensus energy bill that had some industry support galvanized most big oil and coal companies to invest heavily in their efforts to oppose a Senate bill. Companies in these and other industries thus spent records amounts of money on lobbying, campaign donations, and other pressure tactics to defeat clean energy legislation in the Senate. And this spending does not include millions of dollars spent on message advertising, “astro turf” rallies (fake grass roots), and other pressure tactics that do not require public spending reports.

Opensecrets.org found that electric utilities and oil and gas companies spent more than $500 million in lobbying from January 2009 to June 2010, primarily to weaken or defeat energy legislation. A Center for American Progress Action Fund analysis found that oil companies were six of the top seven spenders on lobbying and campaign contributions during this period, with ExxonMobil number one.

Big Oil’s campaign contributions are heavily tilted toward Republicans, who received 70 percent of the contributions that went to the two parties. Opensecrets.org reports that as

“¦ debate raged in Congress about offshore drilling, energy independence, ‘cap-and-trade’ legislation and a shift away from fossil-fuel energy sources “¦ congressional candidates and federal political committees nationwide have raked in more than $17 million from the oil and gas industry so far during the 2010 election cycle””a number on pace to easily exceed that of the most recent midterm election four years ago.

The recipients of the funds have remained relatively consistent over the years, with Republicans accumulating a majority of the industry’s campaign contributions.

The coal industry, too, gave nearly 70 percent of its campaign cash to Republicans.

The bigger picture

The New Yorker pulled back the curtain on the admirable but frustratingly unsuccessful efforts of Sens. Kerry, Lieberman, Graham, and others to achieve Senate passage of comprehensive clean energy and global warming legislation. But Lizza pinning the blame on the White House or senators misses the larger factors behind this huge disappointment.

Al Gore spelled it out succinctly during an interview with Lizza after the legislation was dead for the year. He agreed that the economy, a unified wall of opposition in the Senate, and special interest spending were at the heart of this outcome.

I asked Al Gore why he thought climate legislation had failed. He cited several reasons, including Republican partisanship, which had prevented moderates from becoming part of the coalition in favor of the bill. The Great Recession made the effort even more difficult, he added. “The forces wedded to the old patterns still have enough influence that they were able to use the fear of the economic downturn as a way of slowing the progress toward this big transition that we have to make.

There were gale force economic, political, and special interest winds blowing against global warming legislation in 2010 that were beyond the influence of its champions. The question should not be “Why did they fail?” but “How did they get so far?”

Daniel J. Weiss is a Senior Fellow and Director of Climate Strategy at American Progress. Special thanks to Susan Lyon, Ben Kaldunski, and Laurel Hunt.

Endnotes

[1]. This includes all of the major pollution control laws and the Endangered Species Act. These laws established public health safeguards and pollution reduction requirements for industry. This assessment does not include nonregulatory laws such as public lands protection laws. Nor does it include laws that have some pro-environment provisions as part of a broader bill, such as the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

[2]. Key to Unemployment Levels Chart:

CAA=Clean Air Act

CWA=Clean Water Act

ESA=Endangered Species Act

RCRA=Resource Recovery and Conservation Act

SDWA=Safe Drinking Water Act

TSCA=Toxic Sustances Control Act

SDWA=Safe Drinking Water Act

SF=Super Fund

RTK=Right to Know

EISA=Energy Independence and Security Act

ACES=American Clean Energy and Security Act

CAA=Clean Air Act

CWA=Clean Water Act

ESA=Endangered Species Act

RCRA=Resource Recovery and Conservation Act

SDWA=Safe Drinking Water Act

TSCA=Toxic Sustances Control Act

SDWA=Safe Drinking Water Act

SF=Super Fund

RTK=Right to Know

EISA=Energy Independence and Security Act

ACES=American Clean Energy and Security Act

 

Daniel J. Weiss is a Senior Fellow and Director of Climate Strategy at CAP.

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24 Responses to Anatomy of a Senate climate bill death

  1. The economy has nothing to do with the failure of the climate bill.

    Mitch and Republicans in the Senate have obstructed every bill, every nomination and every action by the Obama administration they could obstruct with the intent of making Obama (and America) fail.

    Republican politicians would wreck the planet to win a victory over Democrats.

    The combination of obstructionist Republicans plus coal state Democrats was greater than 50 votes. No climate bill could pass the Senate.

    A combined climate, energy and green jobs bill cold have helped get us out of the recession, but Republicans and coal state Dems would never let it happen.

  2. It seems to me that there is another force to be reckoned with that prevents a climate and energy law, the media. There is no call to action to stop global warming from our conventional media such as TV, radio, and newspapers. Similarly, there is only a weak call to action from the public. Hopefully, the public is beginning to produce more noise because of your Climate Progress website, McGibbon’s group 350, and Hansen’s rallies. Your website, Joe, is a wonderful spur to action. The general public will gradually sway their politicians in spite of the lobby money; at least I have to believe that in order to sleep at night!

  3. Michael Y says:

    Dear Friends,

    I’ve commented here a few times and now I have a small request. (Joe, I’m hoping you’ll allow the post as it concerns putting into action on much of what we are all spending a lot of energy talking and thinking through.)

    I’m a professor at the business school, IMD, in Lausanne, Switzerland. We are regularly ranked in the top 5 of business schools worldwide (and the first and only top tier business school to be carbon neutral). We serve primarily large corporate customers. The goal of the program is to help develop the world’s best change agents in sustainability.

    I have created a partnership between WWF and IMD to deliver programs on driving sustainability in business. The program is innovative. We will be delivering open enrollment programs starting first in Europe in 2011, and then the US in 2012. If you know of individuals or organizations that might be interested, please do let them know about this program.

    The program is action-oriented, and my intention is that we develop real momentum among leading companies to move in a more sustainable direction, particularly with regard to global warming.

    Here’s a little press release: http://www.imd.org/ news/ IMD-partners-with-WWF-to-offer-best-in-class-sustainability-program-for-business-leaders.cfm

    If you have any additional ideas or questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me directly at
    michael.yaziji at imd.ch

    Thanks to you all.

    Michael

  4. Colorado Bob says:

    Worst headline of the day -

    Volcano blows hole in global warming fight

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/39632361/

  5. john atcheson says:

    #2 Philip:

    I agree. The MSM bears a great deal of responsibility for this failure.

    As Ghandi said, “There go my people; I must hurry to get in front of them if I am to lead.”

    Now, I think Obama and the White House have been cowardly poll-chasers on this issue, plain and simple. But if the media had been reporting this accurately over the past decade, the polls they’d be chasing would be urging greater action sooner.

  6. Some European says:

    This reads like a history book from 2050.
    How about the title “chronicle of an apocalypse foretold”?

  7. paulm says:

    What climate change activists can learn from Coca-Cola…

    What nonprofits can learn from Coca-Cola
    http://www.ted.com/talks/melinda_french_gates_what_nonprofits_can_learn_from_coca_cola.html

  8. MarkB says:

    The gist of the story is that Obama could have gotten cap and trade passed if he took it on first instead of healthcare, as his political capital had been spent. I don’t think that’s true. It barely passed the House, and 60 Senate votes were always a large reach. In July of 2009, Joe blogged on a fivethirtyeight analysis that assigned percentages to probabilities of Yes votes. I crunched the numbers at the time, and found that reaching 60 votes was about 1 in 1000.

    http://climateprogress.org/2009/07/14/who-are-the-swing-senators-for-climate-clean-energy-bill/#comment-99174

    This was due to many Democrats being of the gulf/coal state variety. So if Obama had pushed cap and trade shortly after passing the House, it still would have been a big uphill climb, and I suspect the same political capital would have been spent. Perhaps they knew this and decided to go with healthcare, where there were less stubborn Democrats to derail it. In the end, if they went with cap and trade, it’s very likely they would have been left with no healthcare and energy, and scrambling to get a financial regulation bill done before the midterms. The base would have been utterly deflated.

    And for those who think the 60-vote rule is bad, imagine if Republicans have both Senate and the presidency in 2013. The filibuster would be crucial, especially with a few fossil fuel Democrats voting with them on energy issues. So it swings both ways. Take away the filibuster, and Dems get cap and trade passed, but it just as easily would be overturned after a shift of the political winds.

  9. mike roddy says:

    Izza’s piece was excellent but, as Fish #1 pointed out, climate legislation was defeated because of the fossil fuel companies’ disgraceful ownership of one of our great political parties. Izza’s story about Graham being swayed against cap and trade by a visit to constituents back home is a Party smokescreen. What really happened, of course, is that McConnell took Graham to the woodshed. The Republican Party is a totalitarian organization, demanding total obedience.

    Mark B, you’re right, I don’t know if Obama could have pushed the legislation through anyway. What the Democrats have really failed to do is exploit the Republicans’ evolution into a pure instrument of big business, and fossil fuel companies in particular. This would be a great argument to make to the public, and they’re dogging it.

  10. Barry says:

    Obama pushed openly from the bully pulpit on healthcare, recession and financial reform. On climate he balked.

    Sure it was hard and maybe impossible. But he prioritized climate threats behind the other issues and then sat on the bench when it looked like the chances of winning the national carbon price game were daunting.

    The oil, coal and gas industries are getting more powerful. The costs to transition are growing. The threats to the citizens of USA are ratching upwards. The window of opportunity to put in place the fundamental tool needed — a national price on carbon — has slammed shut for some unknown amount of time. Maybe years.

    Obama prioritized healthcare reform and financial reform over the climate threat. He obviously saw them as bigger threats.

    Those of us who think the science shows climate chaos is a much greater threat are obviously deeply disappointed in those choices.

  11. George Ennis says:

    President Obama had this ridiculous idea that the primary goal was to seek bipartisanship. Of course the very idea that one could have any kind of reasoned discussion with the extreme right wingnuts in the Senate was laughable. What is worse the Senate should have passed new rules that ended the idea of allowing legislation to be blocked by a single Senator unless there was a super majority to move it forward.

    There will be no legislation dealing with climate change or oil dependency now or probably not until 2020 at the earliest. My advice to my nephews and nieces is to focus on adaptation as implausible as that may be in the long term. What else is there to do? The world is being held ransom by an extreme right wing party that has a bright political future ahead of it. US voters in large numbers seem intent on voting for a political party that wants the US to commit suicide politically and economically.

  12. Barry says:

    Mike Roddy (#8), I think the GOP stance is much more complicated than just the Republican politicians being paid off by fossil fuel companies. The GOP clearly have polling that shows their climate-denier message is a winning one in their key states.

    If you overlap the GOP vote with a map of GHG-per-capita in USA you see a nearly perfect match of GOP voters and high-GHG emitters. They are preaching to the choir, which is why they are able to get all the GOP candidates on-side with the message.

    In my book the failure of the democrats and Obama has been that they have not done enough to counter this GOP denier message with an equally strong message based on reality. The GOP appeal to emotions, hopes and concerns of Americans with make-believe and DEMs and Obama haven’t countered with appeals based on reality.

    As Joe has rightly pointed out over and over and over again…the messaging on the climate threats and science by Democrats and Obama has been a massive botch compared to the GOP messaging. The intensity of the messaging has been one sided with GOP hammering on it constantly while Obama and Dems are fairly quiet.

    There are huge numbers of Americans that don’t want climate change to be real and are receptive to a message that things are fine. If that is the message they get loudest, clearest and most often then they are going to go with it.

    My problem with Obama on climate is that he has not engaged the public at a level that tells people he actually views it as a primary threat to the citizens of America.

  13. Peter M says:

    #12 Barry

    Obama has not been really engaged at all on anything since January 2009- he seems detached and aloof- I am still waiting for A Teddy Roosevelt, FDR type of leadership- A hope in vain perhaps. Smart man- though not really suited to be President. That could change by 2012-

    However his message is going to have to become much stronger- he could set back the progressive movement- and climate change for the next 2 decades. Which in the end will bring us into a doomsday scenario- he knows by now his legacy is on the line- smart thing to do for him is step aside in 2012.

  14. Bill Waterhouse says:

    Barry #12 – Can you post the map or a link to it please? Is there a way to get an electoral majority from the low-HGH areas by running against the coal and oil industries?

  15. John McCormick says:

    We are a chaoic people here in America; afraid for the future and unwilling to do anything about it. The Palenistas have their answers but we Obama supporters are hanging by a thread.

    Maybe the White House has some top secret negotiations underway with China to start the mitigation ball rolling. Likely not.

    Time is our enemy and as things begin to unravel as oil availability becomes the next great concern, pressure to develop US oil shale, coal and tar sands will sweep over what is left of the environmental front guard.

    There are respected voices out there in America who have nothing to lose by joining our cause but they are not in our camp. Bob Dole, Warren Buffett, Larry King, Colin Powell, Madeleine Albright are some of the names I would like to hear from. I’m sugesting we spend some big money to hire them to talk to Americans for us!

    The reason environmentalists have come to own the climate change debate and will live with the failure to accomplish anything is that no other interests really care; not Archer Daniels, the truckers, airline companies; automakers who all stand to suffer mightily as the foundation begins to crumble around their empires.

    How about our enviro leaders spending some quality time with America’s elite corps of outstanding and silent public figures and challenge them to step up and take a stand, if only to assure their heirs have a chance to enjoy their inheritance.

    We foot soldiers have no chance of turning this ship around because we are not of the Bilderberg clan. Maybe some of them are and damn it they have skin in this game even if they have never lent a hand to us common folk.

    John McCormick

  16. MarkB says:

    I also agree that the mainstream media has been a huge culprit in this, avoiding discussing climate change unless it had a Gate attached to it.

    Generally speaking, the media tends to slam whatever party is in power, with the exception of the 2001-2002 post-911 period. 2003-2006, Republicans got slammed pretty good and their agenda got halted shortly after Bush declared political capital, ending with a thud with the attempts at SS privatization. There were exceptions, of course, such as the 2004 election period, where media gave credence to all sorts of false attacks on Kerry. Fast forward to 2009. With Republicans out of power in all branches, the media’s engaged in a pretty much a non-stop onslaught on the Democratic party and Obama. When they quote liberals, it’s only when they are criticizing Obama. Stories on healthcare town halls were trumped by positive stories on tea party fanatics yelling at town halls. The same media will write stories blaming Obama’s alleged poor response to criticism for his drop in approval rating, as if a WH press conference can battle the entire media.

    So where to fault Obama? I’m glad Rahm is gone. The idea that Obama should have pulled back on healthcare and thus accomplishing nothing in his short window of opportunity was silly – as if not doing anything would prevent a drop in approval ratings, especially when there are few excuses not to do anything. One of Obama’s biggest blunders was the compromise on offshore drilling (the more hard ban was lifted today), shortly before the spill. Obviously, hindsight is 20/20, but he gave a concession while receiving nothing in return at the time.

  17. Bill, the problem is the Senate gives power to low population rural red states. Getting a bill through the Senate involves achieving an electoral supermajority. The Constitution creates a major obstacle in the way of effective climate and energy legislation to stop climate change.

  18. john atcheson says:

    Mark B.

    There are two reasons Obama had to spend political capital on the Health care bill: First, he tried the split the difference approach and had a bill that his supporters were either luke warm about or openly hostile to it.

    Second, he didn’t lead — so he was in the same position as a person who didn’t change the oil in time is in — a great deal of damage has occurred and it is costly to fix it.

    This same follow the polls mentality which you so artfully articulate is the problem, not the solution. If he’d led and won on Health care (and he could have — 79% favored public option and 60% favored single payer as late as early June) he could have increased his political capital —

    If you don’t engage in the battle you may not lose the battle, but you will certainly lose the war.

  19. Raul M. says:

    New record for the number of weeks with
    hurricane activity in the Atlantic in one
    year yet?

  20. mike roddy says:

    Barry, there’s a lot more going on than the correspondence between regional GHG emissions and stances on global warming. People in the East and West have carbon footprints averaging 72% of those in the South and Midwest- a substantial difference, but not enough to explain such a sharp divergence in acceptance of AGW.

    People in countries whose rural populations depend on fossil fuels- such as Italy and Brazil- don’t go for the denier view of reality. The reason people in states like Wyoming and West Virginia are deniers is because they get their information from Rush and Fox, and have been victimized by bad public schools. It’s easier to get away with lying to people who don’t have public transportation or a low C lifestyle, but if they learned the truth many of them would also bocome concerned, and the world could change. The media and fossil fuel companies make sure that doesn’t happen.

  21. Bill Waterhouse says:

    Here’s a good discussion of how unrepresentative the US Senate is and why fossil fuel industries based in rural states have a huge structural political advantage:

    http://archive.fairvote.org/articles/progressivepopulis.htm

    Will we fail to enact climate change legislation because of it?

  22. Deborah Stark says:

    Re: Barry | Post #12

    Excellent summation regarding the asymmetry of messaging.

    Also, could you possibly post a link to that map you referenced? Thanks very much.

    Re: Peter M | Post #13

    “…..However (Obama’s) message is going to have to become much stronger- he could set back the progressive movement- and climate change for the next 2 decades. Which in the end will bring us into a doomsday scenario- he knows by now his legacy is on the line- smart thing to do for him is step aside in 2012…..”

    Do you have any suggestions as to who might (should) step up for 2012?

  23. fj2 says:

    We are well on our way to apocalypse.

    This is a job for Superman.

  24. John McCormick says:

    I’m satisfied that the autopsy on the dead climate change bill is sufficient.

    Now, what do we do? Wait until the dems regain a super majority? Wait for a cat 6 to hit New York Harbor? Or, are there any new and daring approaches we haven’t tried or thought of?

    Maybe a great deal of soul searching by the enviro leadaers and the leaders of the democratic party might be agood place to start. Seems like kicking that stone up on Capitol Hill is hurting a great deal and wasting precious time.

    It isn’t entirely reliant on ‘perfect messaging”. An entirely new approach for activists in the US is what is really needed.

    Got some ideas?

    I keep banging away at the notion that a goodly number of respected, national statespersons among us could be hired to tell the public there is chaos in their future if they don’s soon wake up and do somthing more than change out their incandescents.

    See my comment at #15.

    What the heck. Nothing else seems to be working!

    JOhn McCormick