Climate change is real. Climate change is manmade. Manmade climate change has happened within the last twenty-four months.
Leaders in the climate change debate have controlled the message for forty years since the adoption of the Clean Air Act. They have “approached climate change politics with an air of disdain,” according to Fred Krupp, President, Environmental Defense Fund (established in 1967).
Krupp addressed the changing political climate at Fortune Magazine’s Brainstorm Green Conference in early April and admitted that there is a “newfound hostility to climate policy.” He advised the environmental community to be “more humble” and “less arrogant.” He acknowledged the failure of a comprehensive energy and/or cap and trade policy.
Krupp is correct. With the falsification of climate records exposed—known as Climategate, the American people now see climate change as merely hysteria. Polls show they do not view it as a real problem that we need to address now.
At the same conference, Jim Rogers, CEO of Duke Energy, agreed. He said, “Cap and trade cannot be sold and must be reinvented,” adding that it was going to be hard to “resurrect cap and trade.”
Climate change legislation has been the holy grail of the environmental movement—but the climate has changed. Now the green movement is playing defense.
This change of climate is not from carbon emissions—though it is manmade. At the same conference, former green jobs czar, Van Jones, didn’t “blame the environmentalists or the policy concept itself.” What brought about the change? How’d the debate get reframed and cause the death of cap and trade? Something, Jones pointed out, no one in the room had heard of twenty-four months ago—“a right-wing populace movement” that the carbon emission supporters failed to take seriously: “the tea party.”
Man changed the political climate in just two years. After forty years, environmentalists are now on the defense because of some under-estimated “upstarts.”
This change of climate was evident during the recent legislative battles over the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) authority to use the Clean Air Act to regulate carbon emissions—which environmentalists believe causes climate change.
In late March/early April four bills were introduced in the Senate—each designed to limit the EPA’s authority. Not surprisingly, none passed in the Democrat-held Senate. However, the change of climate can be seen in the numbers. In the vote on April 6, the bills with the least restrictions on the EPA’s authority were trounced (Baucus Amendment 7-yes, 93-no; Rockefeller 12-yes, 88-no; Stabenow 7-yes, 93-no) while the strongest, the McConnell Amendment, came close to passing at 50-yes, 50-no. A similar plan passed the House 255 to 172.
While the climate has changed, the fight is not over. The battle continues. Following the Senate’s EPA skirmish, the New York Times said “Efforts to handcuff the environmental agency are not likely to end here.”
Admitting defeat on climate change legislation, Krupp encouraged the environmental movement to try “other approaches.”
As soon as Krupp’s suggestion surfaced, “other approaches” appeared. The next day (April 6) Senators Tom and Mark Udall (NM and CO, respectively) introduced legislation that retiring Senator Bingaman (NM) has been heralding for several years: The Renewable Energy Standard (RES). Simmering on the sidelines, the RES was ready and awaiting its moment. With the admitted death of cap and trade and animosity toward the EPA growing, it was time for something, as Krupp stated, “that might capture a bipartisan center.” The cousins Udall were all too happy to oblige with a bill that would set a federal RES of 6% renewable energy (wind, solar and “other renewable sources”) by 2013, reaching 25% by 2025. Both New Mexico and Colorado currently have state renewable energy standards—as do 27 others.
The Udall’s efforts, in this changed political climate, have so little chance of success, major news outlets ignored their announcement. The Colorado Independent said, “While the bill may be able to make it out of the Senate—although even that isn’t a certainty—it has almost no chance in the Republican controlled House.”
The RES should be seen as the “reinvention” of cap and trade—another approach. According to the New Mexico Independent, “The plan would allow energy suppliers to buy credits from other producers who produce renewable energy and allow producers to ‘bank’ the credits for up to four years and borrow credits for up to three years into the future.”
The RES would essentially achieve the same carbon emission reductions as a cap and trade plan by forcing the public to use more-expensive renewable energy—thus reducing energy consumption. (Generally states with a renewable energy standard have higher electricity rates.) Americans understand that when developing countries refuse to cut their energy use because it will hurt their economy, we shouldn’t be forced to cut ours either.
Despite the near certain failure of the Udall’s approach, don’t make the same mistake the White House made. Take these repeated “resurrections” seriously by keeping the green movement on the defense. They’ve been trying to make us replace economic energy that works for electricity that is expensive, intermittent, and ineffective. But America noticed. We woke up, showed up, stood up and spoke up.
You have changed the climate!
Known as the voice for energy, Marita Noon is the Executive Director at Energy Makes America Great Inc. the advocacy arm of the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy—working to educate the public and influence policy makers regarding energy, its role in freedom and the American way of life. She is a popular speaker, a frequent guest on television and radio, her commentaries have been published in newspapers, blogs and websites nationwide, and she has just completed her twentieth book: Take Away Energy, Take Away Freedom. Find out more at www.EnergyMakesAmericaGreat.org.