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“What Matters Is Reducing Emissions”: How Conservatives Will React To Obama’s New Climate Regulations

President Obama is set to announce new rules for carbon emissions today, and what we’ll see is a familiar pattern. The administration decides to confront one of the most profound challenges we face. It bends over backward to accommodate the concerns of its opponents, shaping the policy to achieve the goal in ways that Republicans might find palatable. Then not only are its efforts to win support from the other side fruitless, the opposition is so vituperative that it veers into self-parody.

That’s what happened with the Affordable Care Act; not only was the law not “socialism” as Republicans charged, it was about as far from socialism as you could get and still achieve universal coverage. It involved getting as many people as possible into private insurance plans, where they could see private medical providers. But Republicans who had previously embraced similar market-based ideas decided that once Obama poisoned them with his support, they were now the height of statist oppression.

Something similar happened with cap and trade, a carbon-credit system, which before 2008 was considered a conservative alternative to heavy-handed government regulation, harnessing the power of the market to reduce pollution—one that had the support of many Republicans. But once Obama began advocating cap and trade, Republicans decided it was the most vile sort of government overreach. The new regulations the administration is about to announce allow for state cap and trade systems, but the administration is carefully avoiding using the term.

The essence of the administration’s plan, at least in the details that have been reported so far, is that it will set statewide targets for reduction of carbon emissions from existing power plants (which are the single largest source of such emissions), then let each state decide how it wants to meet those targets. A state could institute a cap and trade program, or it could do any number of other things. That’s supposed to be just the kind of federalism conservatives love.

We’re likely to hear a number of responses from conservatives to these new regulations. Some will say climate change is a hoax, and there’s no reason to worry about it. Others will say that though climate change is real, we shouldn’t actually do anything about it. Others will talk about how despite the state-by-state flexibility, these regulations will be “job-killing.” But the word you’re likely to hear more than any other is “lawless.”

Every time Barack Obama takes an executive action they don’t like, Republicans describe it as “lawless.” There are certainly times when Obama has tested the limits of presidential power, just like pretty much every president before him. But Republicans make this charge even if what he’s doing is squarely within the president’s rights. (I contend that they make this charge so often because at a fundamental level, they believe Obama’s entire presidency is illegitimate, but that’s a discussion for another day.)

It’s true that early in his presidency, Obama tried unsuccessfully to pass climate legislation (a cap and trade bill passed the House but died in the Senate), and is now doing through regulation what he couldn’t do through legislation. But there’s nothing lawless about that, so long as the regulations are within his authority. In this case, Obama is not only allowed to regulate carbon emissions, he’s required to do so by law. In a 2007 case called Massachusetts v. E.P.A., the Supreme Court ruled that the Clean Air Act mandated that the federal government take steps to regulate carbon emissions, and that’s what the EPA will be doing.

Even if the state flexibility fails to win over Republicans, it’s still a good idea. What matters is reducing emissions, and whichever way a state gets there is fine. The states will be able to learn from each other; if they accomplish the reductions in different ways, we’ll discover which paths were the easiest, most effective, and least expensive, and states can adapt over time with that knowledge. But the details won’t matter to the administration’s opponents; because Barack Obama is proposing these regulations, they must be job-killing socialism intended to destroy America.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, May 27, 2014

May 28, 2014 Posted by | Carbon Emissions, Conservatives | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Let’s Get The Word Out”: Florida’s Governor Scott Takes Deep Dive Into Climate Change

My fellow Floridians, as you’ve all probably heard, a new National Climate Assessment report says that Florida is seriously threatened by rising sea levels, mass flooding, salt-contaminated water supplies and increasingly severe weather events — all supposedly caused by climate change.

Let me assure you there’s absolutely no reason for worry. I still don’t believe climate change is real, and you shouldn’t, either.

Don’t be impressed just because 240 “experts” contributed to this melodramatic report. The Tea Party has experts, too, and they assure me it’s all hogwash.

Even if the atmosphere is warming (and, whoa, I’m not saying it is!), I still haven’t seen a speck of solid evidence that it has anything to do with man spewing millions of tons of gaseous pollutants into the sky.

Is the planet a hotter place than it was 200 years ago? Yes, but only by a couple of degrees. Did most of the temperature rise occur since 1970? Yes, but don’t blame coal-burning plants or auto emissions.

Maybe the sun is getting closer to the Earth. Ever think of that? Or the Earth is moving closer to the sun? Let’s get some brainiacs to investigate that possibility!

As long as I’m the governor, Florida isn’t going to punish any industries by imposing so-called “clean air” regulations that limit carbon emissions.

In fact, soon after I took office we repealed the state’s Climate Protection Act and eliminated the Energy and Climate Commission that was created under my predecessor, the Obama-hugging turncoat Charlie Crist.

I also ordered the Department of Environmental Protection to halt all initiatives dealing with renewable energy and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, no one at DEP is even allowed to whisper the phrase “climate change” any more.

Yet the subject just won’t go away. That’s because the liberal media keep trying to scare everybody.

Say the polar ice caps really are melting, and sea levels really did rise 8 inches during the last 130 years. Who says there has to be a scientific explanation? Maybe God’s just messing around with us for a few centuries.

I myself own a big home in Naples right on the Gulf of Mexico, which is supposedly rising along with the oceans. Do I look scared? Do you see a moving van in my driveway?

Of course not (although I’m grateful to the Koch brothers for offering to let me stay with them in Wichita during the next hurricane).

And, please, enough griping already about Miami Beach going underwater! While I sympathize with all the homeowners and businesses along Alton Road that are being swamped by flooding at high tides, there’s not much I can do as governor except pretend it isn’t happening.

So let’s pull together to remind the rest of America, and the whole world, that most of Florida is still dry, and it will be for many, many real-estate cycles to come.

Newcomers who might be queasy about purchasing waterfront property in South Beach or Fort Lauderdale should instead consider some of our inland gems like Sebring (where the average elevation is 131 feet above sea level), Haines City (182 feet) or Eustis (67 feet).

Let’s get out the word that it could be hundreds of years before Ocala (104 feet) is submerged. So come on down now and get your homestead exemption before you need a snorkel to find your homestead.

If you really want to play it safe, try beautiful Britton Hill, the highest point in Florida at 345 feet above sea level. It is way up in Walton County near the Alabama border, but at least you’ll still be on the map if Key Biscayne turns into a coral reef.

To concerned residents of greater Miami, Tampa Bay and Apalachicola — three areas singled out by the federal report as imperiled by rising water — here’s what I would say:

Open a paddleboard shop, people. Or an airboat taxi service.

Why not turn a negative situation into a positive opportunity? One person’s sinkhole is another person’s cave-spelunking franchise.

Come on, Florida, let’s get to work.

 

By: Carl Hiaasen, Columnist for The Miami Herald; The National Memo, May 13, 2014

May 15, 2014 Posted by | Climate Change, Rick Scott | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The GOP Has It Backwards”: Republicans Want To Tax Students And Not Polluters

A basic economic principle is government ought to tax what we want to discourage, and not tax what we want to encourage.

For example, if we want less carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, we should tax carbon polluters. On the other hand, if we want more students from lower-income families to be able to afford college, we shouldn’t put a tax on student loans.

Sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, congressional Republicans are intent on doing exactly the opposite.

Earlier this year the Republican-led House passed a bill pegging student-loan interest rates to the yield on the 10-year Treasury note, plus 2.5 percentage points. “I have very little tolerance for people who tell me that they graduate with $200,000 of debt or even $80,000 of debt because there’s no reason for that,” Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), the co-sponsor of the GOP bill, said.

Republicans estimate this will bring in around $3.7 billion of extra revenue, which will help pay down the federal debt.

In other words, it’s a tax — and one that hits lower-income students and their families. Which is why several leading Democrats, including Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, oppose it. “Let’s make sure we don’t charge so much in interest that the students are actually paying a tax to reduce the deficit,” he argues.

(Republicans claim the President’s plan is almost the same as their own. Not true. Obama’s plan would lead to lower rates, limit repayments to 10 percent of a borrower’s discretionary income, and fix the rate for the life of the loan.)

Meanwhile, a growing number of Republicans have signed a pledge – sponsored by the multi-billionaire Koch brothers — to oppose any climate-change legislation that might raise government revenues by taxing polluters.

Officially known as the “No Climate Tax Pledge,” its signers promise to “oppose any legislation relating to climate change that includes a net increase in government revenue.”

By now 411 current office holders nationwide have signed on, including the entire GOP House leadership, a third of the members of the House as a whole, and a quarter of U.S. senators.

The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer reports that two successive efforts to control greenhouse-gas emissions by implementing cap-and-trade energy bills have died in the Senate, the latter specifically targeted by A.F.P.’s pledge

Why are Republicans willing to impose a tax on students and not on polluters? Don’t look for high principle.

Big private banks stand to make a bundle on student loans if rates on government loans are raised. They have thrown their money at both parties but been particularly generous to the GOP. A 2012 report by the nonpartisan Public Campaign shows that since 2000, the student loan industry has spent more than $50 million on lobbying.

Meanwhile, the Koch brothers – whose companies are among America’s 20 worst air-polluters –have long been intent on blocking a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system. And they, too, have been donating generously to Republicans to do their bidding.

We should be taxing polluters and not taxing students. The GOP has it backwards because its patrons want it that way.

 

By: Robert Reich, Robert Reich Blog, July 6, 2013

July 8, 2013 Posted by | Education, Environment | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Man Versus Wild–What Japan’s Disaster Can Teach Us About American Politics

The earthquake and potential nuclear catastrophe in Japan have brought home a set of questions that have haunted philosophers for hundreds of years—and have played an important role in American politics for over a century. They have to do with the relationship between humanity and nature—not nature as “the outdoors,” but as the obdurate bio-geo-physiochemical reality in which human beings and other animals dwell. To what extent does nature set limits on human possibilities? And to what extent can human beings overcome these limits?

The past million years or so provide much evidence that humanity can overcome natural limits, including the seasons, the alternation of night and day, infertile soil and swamps, gravity (think of airplanes), and infectious disease. But every once in a while, an earthquake, a hurricane, a volcanic eruption, the exhaustion of precious metals, a huge forest fire, or the spread of a mysterious disease can bring home the limits that nature sets on humanity. Politicians don’t debate issues in these terms, but that doesn’t mean that these questions aren’t stirring beneath their platitudes.

In the United States, concern about the limits of nature used to be primarily a Republican priority. Theodore Roosevelt, of course, made conservation a governmental concern. But Herbert Hoover, Dwight Eisenhower, and Richard Nixon also made their marks as conservationists—in Nixon’s case, as the president who presided over the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency. Democrats, and liberal Democrats, were more associated with a kind of can-do/anything-is-possible Americanism that aimed for everything from going to the moon to eradicating poverty.

But the political parties and ideologies have reversed dramatically on these issues. Republicans and conservatives have become not just less concerned than Democrats and liberals about the limits that nature puts on humanity; they insist, for the most part, that these limits don’t exist. They are in denial—whether about the availability of petroleum or the danger of global warming; and their denial imperils not just America’s future, but that of the world.

The big switch between the parties happened in the early 1970s, in response to increasingly serious air and water pollution, and to the first of several energy crises that saw the demand for oil exceed the supply. One of the first prominent politicians to respond to these twin crises was California Governor Jerry Brown, who proclaimed an “era of limits.” Brown’s crusade for clean air and alternative energy was taken up by Jimmy Carter during his presidency, and by the environmental movements, which had been associated as much with Republicans as Democrats, but which became increasingly supportive of the Democratic Party, eventually endorsing and helping fund liberal Democratic candidates.

During the ‘70s, the key figure in transforming the Republican outlook on nature was Ronald Reagan. In his 1980 campaign, Reagan criticized Carter’s measures to limit energy consumption and to finance alternative fuel sources. He blamed rising oil prices entirely on the restrictions that Carter had placed on the market. He denied that a problem of pollution existed—“air pollution has been substantially controlled,” he declared during a campaign stop in Youngstown, Ohio.

Once in office, Reagan put a foe of conservation, James Watt, in charge of the Interior Department; a critic of environmental protection, Anne Gorsuch, at the Environmental Protection Agency; and he cut the research and development budget for alternative energy by 86 percent. Under Carter, the United States had become the world leader in alternative energy. By the time Reagan left office, the country was beginning to lag behind Western Europe and Japan. Reagan didn’t try to overcome the limits that nature was placing on economic growth; he wished them away.

Reagan’s successors have followed his lead. Their “solution” to the prospect of a global shortage in oil is “drill, baby drill.” Their solution to global warming is to deny that it exists and to kill off measures such as high-speed rail that might reduce pollution and oil use. As my colleague Jonathan Chait has noted, Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee unanimously rejected an amendment that said that “Congress accepts the scientific finding of the Environmental Protection Agency that ‘warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global average sea level.'”

The Republicans, it should be noted, didn’t just deny that human activities are contributing to global warming, but that global warming itself exists—a position that is completely outside the realm of scientific belief. It doesn’t qualify as argument, but as delusion.

Yet during the last year, we’ve seen two disasters that show the price humanity can pay for harboring illusions about the workings of nature. First was the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that occurred in early 2010. Yes, it occurred due to lax regulation from the Department of Interior and a rush to profit by BP and Halliburton. But the reason behind the failure of the Interior Department to regulate, and the failure of BP to heed the dangers of a spill, was a belief that nature would not exact revenge. It was a refusal to take the limits set by nature seriously.

The Japanese, of course, cannot be blamed for the calamity that has befallen them. Lacking domestic access to oil, they relied on nuclear power, and they built their reactors to withstand the largest earthquakes and tsunamis—though they didn’t count on both happening simultaneously. Yet what happened in Japan shows vividly that millions of years after humans began inhabiting the earth, nature is still a force to be reckoned with, and it still imposes limits on the decisions we make as a society. Will Republicans come to understand that? Or will they continue to believe that the only limits worth acknowledging are those that government puts on the bank accounts of their corporate sponsors?

By: John B. Judis, Senior Editor, The New Republic, March 16, 2011

March 17, 2011 Posted by | Climate Change, Disasters, Economy, Energy, Environment, Global Warming, Ideologues, Japan, Nuclear Power Plants, Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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