The comically-named Center for American Progress celebrated the tenth anniversary of its founding on 24th October with a daylong policy conference. The glittering list of heavyweight speakers testifies to CAP’s influence within the political left and on the Obama Administration. Not much attention was paid to the Democrats’ greatest achievement during the Obama years—enactment of the Affordable Care Act. On the other hand, climate policies and the Keystone Pipeline got lots of attention.
The intellectual quality of what was said ranged from embarrassing to disgraceful. I listened to it, so you don’t have to, but if you do want to listen, C-Span archived video of the entire conference here.
Former EPA Administrator and White House climate czar Carol Browner, former White House green jobs czar Van Jones, and billionaire anti-Keystone campaigner Thomas Steyer spoke on a climate panel moderated by CAP founder John Podesta. Asked to grade the Obama Administration’s climate policies, Browner said that compared to the House of Representatives Obama gets an A-plus. She said that the EPA was created by President Nixon because the States weren’t up to the job.
Browner was emphatic that some States are not regulating hydraulic fracturing adequately and that the EPA must take over. She also predicted that President Obama would eventually decide to deny the permit to build the Keystone Pipeline.
Browner compared the Clinton Administration unfavorably with the Obama Administration on climate policy. She said that when she was EPA Administrator in the Clinton Administration, if she wanted to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, she had to go to the White House and argue for it. But Lisa Jackson and Gina McCarthy, Obama’s EPA chiefs, only have to argue about the level of regulation.
Steyer’s remarks were low-key and brief. He said that we must stop the Keystone Pipeline and must demand that polluters pay for the negative impacts of burning fossil fuels.
Jones was by far the most engaging and provocative. He began by saying that progressives suffer from low self esteem. President Obama put $90 billion of stimulus funding into green energy; the Bureau of Labor Statistics says there are 3.1 million green jobs; there are now 100,000 jobs in the wind industry compared to 80,000 coal miners; and yet progressives talk about Solyndra. He didn’t compare the per capita energy output of wind and coal employees.
Jones went on to say that a majority of the “white community” voted for Mitt Romney for president even in California. Thus: “So left to the white community by itself, we would have a horrible set of environmental policies in place. We would be burning and drilling everywhere.”
Jones claimed that the U. S. military is “freaked out” by the national security risks of climate change, which is why they include it in all their planning and are investing heavily in renewable energy. And he expressed dismay that in 2008 John McCain agreed that global warming was a threat and that we must pass cap-and-trade, whereas today the Republican Party has been taken over by lunatics and crazy people.
John Kerry mentioned climate change and energy policy only briefly in his speech, even though he announced this spring soon after he became Secretary of State that climate change would be his main focus because it was the greatest national security threat faced by the United States.
Former Vice President Al Gore followed Kerry with an incredible rant. Every big storm is further confirmation that the global warming crisis has already begun. Gore seems not to have heard that extreme weather events in the United States have been at an historic low in 2013.
Gore also spoke passionately against the Keystone Pipeline. He repeatedly called it an atrocity and added that although President Obama had said and done some good things on climate policy, his decision on Keystone was the key test of his commitment.
Gore attributed the failure of his energy-rationing agenda in Congress to the wider failure of democracy. “We’re failing because democracy has been hacked.” Curiously, he quoted Yeats’s hackneyed lines, “The best lack all conviction, while the worst/ Are full of passionate intensity.” He identified Rupert Murdoch and the Koch brothers as being full of passionate intensity. But then Gore shouted, “You think I’m passionate about this. You’re damn right I’m passionate about it.”
Finally, Gore claimed that at least two billion people now have access to electricity produced by renewable sources at rates below the grid average. If true, then why are so few people buying it?