Posts Tagged 'republicans'

McCain: Kudos, With Some Big Fat Caveats

Last week, John McCain said a lot of stuff about how, if he becomes president, he will actually do something about climate change. The video of McCain’s speech is at youtube. The nice thing is, when John McCain says something about this issue, we can still believe him- unlike Bush, what with his laughable lip service to the problem last month.  *heavy sigh*.  But McCain’s sponsored climate bills in the Senate before, he’s got cred. His resounding break from the shilly-shallying of the current administration:

I will not shirk the mantle of leadership that the United States bears. I will not permit eight long years to pass without serious action on serious challenges. I will not accept the same dead-end of failed diplomacy that claimed Kyoto. The United States will lead and will lead with a different approach — an approach that speaks to the interests and obligations of every nation.

First caveat: as much as McCain is trying on this issue, his proposals don’t go far enough. He wants mandatory limits on emissions, free-market trade of emissions vouchers, and lots and lots of nuclear plants. And that’s all he’s got now. Which is odd, because he gave the big speech at a wind farm, so you’d think he would have serious plans for wind. But no, he wants nuclear. Given that it’ll take years for any new nuclear plants to even get on the grid, plus we’ll still have to import nuclear fuel, that’s not going to work so well- how are we moving away from a carbon-based economy if we’re just trading carbon credits around and using the same old carbon-based energy?- plus the mandatory reductions don’t go far enough. Climate progress has a full analysis, in several parts, for the wonks out there.

But at least McCain is talking lots about this issue. So the kudos are for the talking, and making it an important part of the race- even if it hurts him with his own party.

Unfortunately for him, the second caveat is that McCain’s positions aren’t anywhere close to to the Republican consensus on climate change. As of April, Pew Research found that less than half of Republicans even believe that global warming exists– and less than a third of them think humans have anything to do with it. For Democrats, that jumps to 84% and 58% (Pew link via climateprogress). Republican belief in global warming has dropped dramatically in the past few months. McCain sure is going out on that Maverick limb again, claiming that it not only exists, but that something ought to be done about it. As indication of conservative dissent, FoxNews Junk Science section (look, they picked the title, I just cite it and giggle) opines on how dangerous McCain’s “embarrassing” speech could be to um, something. America, the economy, humanity, everything. Doooooom! I mean, I guess republicans will have to vote for him anyway given the alternative, but he’s not making them happy about it.

And the third caveat- the alternative. I sure hope that junk science expert (again, his words, not mine) doesn’t get ahold of Obama’s climate proposals, because he’d probably have a heart attack. Obama’s already outlined a much more specific and broad-based energy and climate change plan in his position papers, and gave a big speech on climate change back in October- text and video here. Back in October, he was already an also-ran, so that’s why we forgot. He’s got alternative energy, he’s got mandatory caps, he’s got renewable energy, he’s got research and commercialization funding, he’s got job programs- it’s almost climate policy paradise! Or at least it will be, when he starts talking about it again.

Barack Obama has had his hands full with the final stages of the nomination process, and he will for a few more weeks- so I’ll let him off the hook right now for not engaging McCain on climate.  But when he begins his national campaign, he needs to make a lot more noise about his energy and environment policies.


Whenever I discuss politics, I tend to overuse terms like “shameful” and “ludicrous”, and to spit while I talk. I don’t know of any way to spit through this blog, so consider yourself lucky while I discuss the shameful and ludicrous decisions those folks in Washington are making on the new energy bill.

This bill has become a catch-all for energy legislation: seems like Mr. Bush decided that “coal” was the future about 6 years ago and Congress hasn’t made much energy progress since then. It doesn’t have a cool name or moniker, it’s just the “Energy Bill”. So we’ve got renewable energy, biofuels, tax increases or tax cut reductions (they call it different things in different articles) for oil companies, and fuel efficiency standards for auto companies all being debated together. There must be some good reason why they lumped it all in, because surely it’d be faster to get meaningful deals on all of these issues if they were debated separately, but maybe I missed that part of the Schoolhouse Rock.

Something, bruised and tattered, limped out of the House earlier this week, shied away from a veto threat, and threw itself upon the mercy of the Senate. Carnage ensued, and now the bloody remains are being sent back to the House to see if they approve (“I wonder who that sad little scrap of paper is”, indeed). Basically, what’s left is:

1) CAFE standards. Average vehicle mileage will rise to 35mpg by 2020. Really now, our fuel efficiency standards are at 1975 levels, and even the Chinese have more restrictive fuel efficiency ratings. This raise is not at all a hardship to the auto industry, who fight it tooth and nail and yet advertise their “earth-friendliness” with virescent logos and promises of hybrids and electrics and fuel cell research they could make into cars for us any year now. It’s about time, and I bet in a couple years people will come to see 35 by 2020 as the baby step it is.

2) Subsidies for corn-based and a few other biofuels, with requirements that production of these be increased 7-fold by 2022. Considering how much harm corn ethanol subsidies have already directly caused, I have no idea why this is a good idea. I agree on this point with the Oil industry. It makes worlds of sense to mandate biofuel production, but not to require it from specific sources.

What’s not there anymore:

1) Tax increases/reduction of cuts for oil companies. It’s very precious that Democrats are the only ones making efforts at fiscal responsibility these days: the tax revenue was going to help pay for some of these changes. Republicans will have none of it, because those poor oil companies need every cent of their record profits to look for more oil to sell us to make more record profits.  Dems won’t insist on the flashes of fiscal responsibility, of course- they’re not in a position to insist upon much these days.   I will digress a minute to ask when Republicans lost their ability to make the choices necessary to be fiscally responsible. No, Bush refusing to spend money on domestic issues and writing a blank check to the Defense Department doesn’t count (literally). Claim your party still is all you like, but the way your people in DC are voting speaks louder than you. Come on, reclaim your heritage! Democrats are stealing all your credibility! For shame. Whatever, it’s not like this bill is making expensive, real changes anyway, and I’m sure our credit is still good somewhere. We’ll invoke the money somehow.

2) Incentives for renewable energy development (wind, solar, geothermal, magic, etc.). It’s just a waste of voting time to pass an Energy Bill without these, but apparently the Senate and the White House don’t like the idea. The omnibus spending bill lurching it’s way through Congress does have a little salve for this (what is it doing there?):

The agreement, to be included in a broad government spending bill, would authorize the Energy Department to guarantee loans for various energy projects, making financing far easier.

The agreement would guarantee loans of up to $25 billion for new nuclear plants and $2 billion for a uranium enrichment plant, something those industries had been avidly seeking. It would also provide guarantees of up to $10 billion for renewable energy projects, $10 billion for plants to turn coal into liquid vehicle fuel and $2 billion to turn coal into natural gas.

Ah, so it’s spending on nuclear power and look! There’s coal again! Sheesh. There’s a nod to renewables, at least.

So the bill doesn’t do much good, props up a few bad ideas, is unfunded anyway, and Bush still might veto it. I continue to be underwhelmed, Government.


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