Friday, November 21, 2008

How much change can we handle?

In my most recent posts, I have focused on the fact that the Democratic Party seems hell bent on returning William Jefferson to Congress from the 2nd Congressional District in Louisiana. This at a time when these same Democrats are cheering over their defeat of Alaskan Senator Ted Stevens. Both Jefferson and Stevens suffer from the same malady, they are apparently crooks. The only difference is that Stevens has been convicted and Jefferson still awaits trial, even though one of his aides has confessed, been sentenced and has agreed to testify against Jefferson.

This indicates that a lot of change is still required from both parties. There is one broad where the scope of the changes that this nations required so vast, the special interests so entrenched that you would question whether anything will change at all. I am talking about the conjoined problems of climate change, energy and the environment. Follow me to Read more!

Bill Becker, writing today at Climate Progress, makes the following assertion.
America’s de facto energy policy is a hodgepodge of self-defeating laws, programs and subsidies. Congress must make a critical decision: We either have to phase out fossil fuels or abandon any pretense that we care about climate change, despite its profound implications for public health, national security, peace and economic stability.
That hodgepodge has been crafted based on the inputs from all of those special interests that bring so much weight to bear on Congress, who can send armies of experts to testify at hearings and whose bottom line interest is just that, the bottom line.

Becker goes on to outline a basic action plan for the Obama Administration. As the head of the Presidential Climate Action Project, he has been responsible for the development of a series of policy statements that truly call for significant change.

What I fear is that we have a group of policy wonks who are buried in think tanks talking to themselves and nodding in agreement over the good things that they do. At the same time, we have an entire array of apparently well meaning people who are clearly not committed to any kind of change, conservative in the sense that they want to maintain the status quo, lacking the imagination to envision a new future.

Democrats talk about the need to support union jobs, while the Teamster's union calls for more drilling, more oil, exploitation of Canada's tar sands or the US large reserves of oil shale even though the results would be catastrophic, not only for climate change but also for fresh water supplies that need to be preserved as rainfall patterns change and our population continues to grow. I am not sure why we support unions that do not support us but that is a subject for a different discussion.

With think tanks policy wonks talking to each other and politicians making profound public displays of intention we often forget that the public is still not on board and that many legislators fear a public backlash that could cost them their seats. One of our Senators, Barbara Boxer chairs the Senate Energy and Public Works Committee and would appear to be in position to create the kind of forward thinking plans that we need. She surely sounded that way this week.

My skepticism about the wide chasm between public pronouncements and implementable policy is expressed in this week's GPCA press release, expressing the same agreement with the expressed intent of Governor Schwarzenegger's Global Climate Conference but asking that he replace Mary Nichols as Chair of the Air Resources Board specifically because the board has, under her leadership, abandoned compliance and put all of her faith in the same market mechanisms that failed when she introduced pollution credit trading as an assistant administrator of the US EPA.

We need to establish the fact that Green Change is somehow different, more attuned to the needs of the individual, of the public at large and not just another rant against the status quo. Rather than talking truth to power we need to be talking the future to the electorate; where are we going and how are we going to get there.

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