Among the Intellectualoids

The Dejected Greens

Their globally warmed heart have melted down.

By 8.10.10

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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has proclaimed climate legislation dead for the rest of this year (although some are suspicious about a potential lame duck session in November or December), and environmental pressure groups are blowing off steam over their political failures.

But why complain? They've got the command-and-control system of (fossil fuel) energy regulation they wanted, thanks to the EPA's endangerment finding under the Clean Air Act that enables it to regulate greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide and others) from vehicles, utilities and industry. Sure, it's being challenged in administrative appeals and courts, but the statist system has been approved and assembly is underway. Those invisible emissions will be policed.

Nevertheless the Greens lament, as exemplified by activist Bill McKibben last week in a commentary picked up by CBSNews.com:

In late July, the U.S. Senate decided to do exactly nothing about climate change. They didn't do less than they could have -- they did nothing, preserving a perfect two-decade bipartisan record of no action. Senate majority leader Harry Reid decided not even to schedule a vote on legislation that would have capped carbon emissions.

I wrote the first book for a general audience on global warming back in 1989, and I've spent the subsequent 21 years working on the issue. I'm a mild-mannered guy, a Methodist Sunday School teacher. Not quick to anger. So what I want to say is: this is messed up. The time has come to get mad, and then to get busy. 

The delusional McKibben went on to sincerely commend "corporate and moderate" groups like the Environmental Defense Fund for doing "everything the way you're supposed to: they wore nice clothes, lobbied tirelessly, and compromised at every turn." He then summed up with:

By the time they were done, they had a bill that only capped carbon emissions from electric utilities (not factories or cars) and was so laden with gifts for industry that if you listened closely you could actually hear the oinking….

They were left out to dry by everyone -- not just Reid, not just the Republicans. Even President Obama wouldn't lend a hand, investing not a penny of his political capital in the fight.

The result: total defeat, no moral victories.

That last point was like a dagger for both the White House and those "corporate" environmental groups (hello, Fred Krupp), who immediately turned on one another with blamethrowers, as Politico reported:

After Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) last month scrapped plans for a vote, the White House made clear it wasn't impressed with the environmentalists' effort. 

"They didn't deliver a single Republican," an administration official told POLITICO just hours after Reid pulled the plug on the climate bill. "They spent like $100 million, and they weren't able to get a single Republican convert on the bill…." 

Enraged environmentalists flooded the White House with phone calls after the quotation appeared in publication. Publicly, they decried the finger pointing and insisted they aren't alone in deserving fault, saying Obama failed to use his bully pulpit and moderate Senate Republicans weren't allowed by their leaders to fully negotiate.

True, if you limit the scope to Congress, the hundreds of millions of dollars poured into lobbying and campaigns by environoia groups (are they really outgunned by Big Oil?) achieved very little. But when the eco-gogues got that EPA dictate based on a Supreme Court order (thanks, Blue America), they should have celebrated. Unless, of course, it wasn't the emission reductions and resulting climate effect they wanted as much as cap-and-trade.

This seems to be the case. In the words of the corporately environmentalist members of the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, "cap and trade is essential." The business end of that collaboration (General Electric, Duke Energy, Exelon, etc.) joined the likes of Environmental Defense and Natural Resources Defense Council so as to find ways to collect "climate revenues" from such a scheme. But if there's no scheme, there are no revenues.

It also explains the dejected Congressmen who had hoped for a carbon trading market of their making, in which they'd decide which industries get the pollution permits to sell and trade. It held so much promise for favors and donor potential. Now, poof!

As for the downcast countenances on alarmists like McKibben and Kevin Knobloch ("My sense is we did fail"), president of the Union of Scientists Concerned About Their Grant Funding, the sadness that they lost cap-and-trade -- even though they have EPA regulation in hand -- means they really don't care about the global thermostat. It's all about money, and raising more of it for their multi-million-dollar nonprofits. They sold their wealthy donors on a legislative goal of cap-and-trade, and fell short.

"There was an expectation in the environmental community that [political] leadership would deliver a certain amount of votes," said EDF spokesman Tony Kreindler. "But there never was a clear understanding of how those two efforts would work together."

Meanwhile, McKibben is issuing new strategies for a different Eaarth: "The task at hand is keeping the planet from melting. We need everyone -- beginning with the president -- to start explaining that basic fact at every turn."

Good luck with that, Bill.

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About the Author

Paul Chesser publishes CarolinaPlottHound.com, a news aggregator for North Carolina, and is a contributor of articles, research and investigative reports for both national and state-level free-market think tanks.