At first glance, it was hard to tell whether they had come to bury Obama or to praise him.The editors at The Los Angeles Times argues that best intentions aside, politics will definitely get in the way of a sound energy policy again:
Thousands of activists from hundreds of environmental, social justice and community groups marched on Washington yesterday in the biggest climate rally ever held in the U.S. capital. Activists both called on President Obama to make good on his climate change policy promises and protested the Keystone XL pipeline project. The demonstration’s timing — early in the administration’s second term — was important. While many say Mr. Obama achieved important green goals in his first term (Rendezvous wrote about tougher fuel efficiency standards for cars), critics say he did not achieve enough in the fight to address climate change. Many blame an uncooperative Congress and the always-looming re-election campaign. (The words “climate change” were not uttered during any of the three presidential debates between Mr. Obama and Mitt Romney.
The secretaries of the interior and energy — portfolios where green leadership is seen as important — are being replaced. The head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Lisa Jackson, announced her resignation late last year.
During the State of the Union, Obama promised that if Congress fails to step up on energy, his administration will. That probably means more regulation of greenhouse gases, more funding for R&D, more incentives for energy efficiency and so on. Meanwhile, gamely plowing ahead despite an absence of support beyond party lines, Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Feb. 14 proposed a bill to impose a carbon tax, something this page has been urging since 2007 but whose current prospects look dim. This combination of administrative action and congressional paralysis has characterized Obama's first term, and short of major changes in Congress, we might as well get used to it.Jump below the fold for more analysis.
Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, on the Keystone XL pipeline:
[A]brupt and extreme changes in the planet's patterns demonstrate the stupidity of prolonging our addiction to fossil fuel, which is exactly what Keystone will do.In The New York Times, Joe Nocera argues in favor of the pipeline and called McKibben's strategy "utterly boneheaded" and ineffective.
By providing a new and easy way to access the "dirtiest oil on earth," the pipeline will drive the expansion of tar-sands production. It is the definition of folly.
Its proponents have always claimed it will create lots of jobs (it will create some, for a couple of years, which is nothing to sneeze at — but the real jobs bonanza comes when we move decisively toward renewable energy) or boost energy independence (which is nonsense — this oil is destined for export). By easing the glut of Canadian oil, even its backers concede, it will raise, not lower, gas prices.
Julian Zelizer at CNN:
To break through the gridlock on this issue and to persuade some of the congressional Republicans to start clapping, Obama will need more than crisis and science. The march this weekend must be the first of more organized grass-roots protests, not just on the mall in Washington but in the districts and states of key members of Congress. [...]Jennifer Ludden at NPR on your local weather guy or gal:
Members of Congress know that climate change legislation doesn't offer tangible benefits to voters, so they're unlikely to act unless they feel pressure from activists in their districts.
When it comes to climate change, Americans place great trust in their local TV weather caster, which has led climate experts to see huge potential for public education.Jonathan Bernstein at The Washington Post points out the truth about the GOP's lack of ideas:
The only problem? Polls show most weather presenters don't know much about climate science, and many who do are fearful of talking about something so polarizing.
The problem with Republicans today on public policy isn’t that they’re stuck in the 1980s; it’s that they’ve given up entirely. More often than not, what passes for Republican “policy” is just symbolic, not substantive. Think, for example, about the big GOP rollout of the spring, a balanced budget amendment — which wouldn’t be much in terms of substantive policy even if it had a chance to pass, which it obviously doesn’t. Or think of their inability (still!) to come up with an alternative to the Affordable Care Act. Again, it’s not that Republican health policy is stuck in the 1980s; it’s that there is nothing that could really be called Republican health policy. Or, to move away from Ponnuru’s topics to national security, there’s the frenzy over Benghazi, Libya, that (as Kevin Drum points out) somehow never quite is about anything, or what seems to be purely symbolic attacks on Chuck Hagel.
The first step out of the policy wilderness for Republicans, then, is for them to decide that developing substantive public policy ideas is a good idea at all. If the way to do that is to attribute it to Ronald Reagan, well, if it works then there’s nothing wrong with it. I hope so; the nation could really use a political party that advances well thought out conservative policy options. There hasn’t been one of those in years.