Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Some climate movement

A note on Obama's climate speech: Kudos. "Flat Earth Society" and other rhetorical swipes were amply justified. New rules on coal: a reasonable approach given a political climate that precludes carbon pricing. Submitting the Keystone pipeline to a test of whether it increases pollution: acceptable but probably has a significant element of arbitrariness; a thorough evaluation would consider not just whether the oil would move anyway, but tradeoffs between oil (even tar sands oil) and coal, and exploitation of North American fossil fuels (relatively easy to regulate, as well as better for national security) versus overseas resources.

Here's a different perspective, from Jennifer Rubin: "Obama's climate gift to Republicans." Excerpt:
At a time that Republicans are divided on immigration reform and the National Security Agency surveillance programs (although really only a few libertarian cranks oppose defending ourselves with technology overseen by Congress and the courts), President Obama delivers today a gift, wrapped in a bow, to Republicans in the form of his political and policy blunder, otherwise known as the “war on coal."
When Democrats controlled both the House and Senate, Obama could not get climate control legislation passed. That explains why he is now seeking to go around Congress to enact anti-coal regulations by fiat. 
The reason even Democrats balked on climate change regulations in the first term (it stalled in the Senate) is because it is economically debilitating, especially in energy producing states; politically unpopular in red states and among the vast majority of all conservatives nationwide; and useless (so long as China, India, etc. don’t follow suit it does virtually nothing for the planet as a whole – even if one buys the global warming hysteria).
Me: This passage actually underscores why a carbon tax would be a better policy--it could be applied to imports and put pressure on China, India, etc., and it would produce revenues that could limit the economic fallout in coal-producing states and elsewhere. I think the Obama administration is wrong to oppose such a tax, but there's no denying that the chances of passage would be slim; too many people (especially in Congress) think as Rubin does. As someone who believes in dealing with reality--political as well as climatological--Obama's half-measures look like a glass half-full, and his tough rhetoric has the virtue of calling those who deny there's much of anything to worry about on climate what they really are. Possibly, in time, that will look like anything but a gift to the Republicans.

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