Speaking at the 2010 Clean Energy, Jobs and Security Forum yesterday, Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) invoked the anger of conservative tea partiers in his advice to advocates of climate legislation. His comments came following the shocking election of Scott Brown, who rode a wave of anti-incumbent anger to win the seat previously held by Sen. Kennedy. Kerry told the assembled crowd that if "the Tea Party folks can go out there and get angry because they think their taxes are too high," then even more people "ought to get angry about the fact that they're being killed and our planet is being injured" by fossil fuel pollution:
I want you to go out there and start knocking on doors and talking to people and telling people this has to happen. You know, if the Tea Party folks can go out there and get angry because they think their taxes are too high, for God's sake, a lot of citizens ought to get angry about the fact that they're being killed and our planet is being injured by what's happening on a daily basis by the way we provide our power and our fuel and the old practices that we have. That's something worth getting angry about.
Later that day, President Barack Obama's discussion of energy policy in his first State of the Union address pandered to corporate interests while demoralizing his progressive supporters. Though Obama made a strong case that real investments in clean energy such as solar technology, advanced batteries, high-speed rail and efficiency are critical to job creation and international competitiveness, he also offered sops to established corporate polluters. Republicans, who spent much of the address refusing to applaud Obama's call for economic reforms, ecstatically applauded his praise of polluting industry. Embracing the language of the John McCain campaign, Obama described nuclear power, offshore oil and gas drilling, and coal as "clean energy jobs":
But to create more of these clean energy jobs, we need more production, more efficiency, more incentives. And that means building a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in this country. It means making tough decisions about opening new offshore areas for oil and gas development. It means continued investment in advanced biofuels and clean coal technologies. And, yes, it means passing a comprehensive energy and climate bill with incentives that will finally make clean energy the profitable kind of energy in America.
Although Republicans lauded Obama's praise of heavily subsidized, polluting industries, they scoffed at energy legislation that would address climate change. Unlike Rudy Giuliani, Rep. David Dreier (R-CA), Mitt Romney, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), Obama's actual supporters were dismayed.
About 12,000 MoveOn members participated in a "live online dial-test of President Obama's State of the Union speech." While Obama's mentions of clean energy innovation were some of his most popular moments, his paean to polluters was by far his worst moment with progressive activists.
Nukes, oil, and coal just aren't clean. If Obama really is committed to "tough decisions," he'll take on the coal companies who are tearing up the Appalachian mountains, the nuclear companies who want taxpayers to take all the risk for accidents and waste, and the oil companies who are burning up the planet for their own profit.
Even if the mortal threat of global warming is not considered, coal and oil pollution kills 20,000 Americans every year -- health costs that far outweigh the price of carbon caps. With unprecedented corporate lobbying having stalled energy reform in the Senate, it's time for climate activists to start brewing up batches of green tea.
Cross-posted at ThinkProgress and the Wonk Room.