Thomas Friedman uses his column in the New York Times today to call for activists to "go crazy" about the Keystone XL pipeline.
So I hope that Bill McKibben and his 350.org coalition go crazy. I’m talking chain-themselves-to-the-White-House-fence-stop-traffic-at-the-Capitol kind of crazy, because I think if we all make enough noise about this, we might be able to trade a lousy Keystone pipeline for some really good systemic responses to climate change.It is hard to argue with his reasoning. The more people make noise in opposition to the pipeline, which he assumes President Obama will approve, the better the chances for some grand bargain on climate. Without vocal opposition from his base, there is no leverage.
We need the president to be able to say to the G.O.P. oil lobby, “I’m going to approve this, but it will kill me with my base. Sasha and Malia won’t even be talking to me, so I’ve got to get something really big in return.”
Friedman goes on to give voice to the discontent of many climate activists.
Face it: The last four years have been a net setback for the green movement. While President Obama deserves real praise for passing a historic increase in vehicle mileage efficiency and limits on the emissions of new coal-fired power plants, the president also chose to remove the term “climate change” from his public discourse and kept his talented team of environmentalists in a witness-protection program, banning them from the climate debate. This silence coincided with record numbers of extreme weather events — droughts and floods — and with a huge structural change in the energy marketplace.Friedman suggests two major items that should be part of some grand bargain to approve the pipeline to pump up profits for the oil industry. The first is a carbon tax, something NASA's Dr. James Hansen has been advocating for years. Without pricing carbon, there is no way to speed the transition to low carbon energy sources.
The $64,000,000,000 question is what to do with the money, if by some miracle pigs sprout wings and Republicans agree to it. Dividends to tax payers would lessen the regressive nature of downstream effects. Funding research, development, and deployment of clean energy is another possibility. Funneling money to pay down the deficit might give the president breathing room to protect Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.
I see little hope the current crop of House Republicans will ever allow a carbon tax. This collection of dinosaurs does not believe in science, much less taxes.
The second major proposal is to treat nature and communities as infrastructure. Nature supplies cost-effective carbon sinks, barriers to rising seas, and drinking water stocks. Investment in communities can make them more resistant to climate effects and more resilient. Infrastructure investments could generate a great deal of job growth and protect vital natural resources. All are good ideas that Republicans will reject out of hand.
While we can debate whether there are enough sane Republicans in Congress to do anything, Friedman has touched on something important. Unless we make a lot of noise about the Keystone XL pipeline and other destructive projects, nothing positive will occur. Judging from the administration's choice of consultants to produce the environmental impact statement for the Keystone XL pipeline (see posts by Brad Johnson and Lisa Song), there is every reason to make a lot of noise. And just in time for the cherry blossoms to bloom in DC
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