Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category
It wasn’t that long ago that Americans on both sides of the political spectrum understood that burning fossil fuels was bad for the Earth. Coal and gas were understood as the root cause of climate change, they polluted our drinking water and our oceans and our skies. As a result, the idea that we should consume fewer hydrocarbons was widely accepted, the science of climate change was accepted, and moving towards a diversified, clean, home-grown energy portfolio was a plan everyone got behind.
But something else was also happening in that time of climate harmony. It was understood that alongside decreased consumption would come decreased production. We were running out of cheap sources of oil and gas in the United States anyway.
Fast forward to today. Consumption of coal and gas are still root the cause of climate change, they are still polluting our drinking water and our oceans and our skies. The science behind climate change has only gotten more sound. And yet, the bi-partisan acceptance that we should move to a clean energy future has eroded. Heck, even President Obama is calling for increased production of oil and gas. So what changed?
Technology. We could all get along on energy when we all thought we would be producing less. Now we can get a whole lot more of that out of the way, expensive hydrocarbon bounty that was just not worth it in the past–the “unconventional sources.” And if we can recover more oil, if we can successfully drill deeper and further and in more remote places, if we can continue to make money off oil and gas, then the arguments against consuming fossil fuels become much less impressive.
So the argument shifts, the new era of technology makes energy security and energy jobs and domestic production the holy grail of the political energy sector, on both sides of the aisle, and relegates what has not changed, the very real and potentially catastrophic environmental threat of continued dependence on fossil fuels, to the background.
For a clear, thoughtful, reminder that we are indeed reverting, read America’s Fossil Fuel Fever, by Michael T. Klare, at The Nation.
Advocates of the new techniques claim that the environmental risks are overshadowed by the greater benefit of economic gain and national security. “Even while the environmental argument rages,” Yergin wrote in the Washington Post in October, “oil sands are proving to be a major contributor to energy security” by lowering the nation’s dependence on Middle East oil. Increased domestic production, he adds, is generating jobs and reducing the nation’s dollar outlays for imported petroleum.
These arguments have great appeal and are attracting support. But they are deeply flawed. While highlighting some benefits to the nation’s security and well-being, they overlook detrimental outcomes of equal or greater significance.
The most important, of course, is the impact of these trends on global warming. By shifting the emphasis from renewables to fossil fuels, we can expect a significant increase in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions—from the consump- tion of oil and gas and from its production. The consumption aspect is well understood: all fossil fuels contain carbon and this carbon is released when the fuels are burned, so any increase in fossil fuel use will result in increased GHG emissions. But the production aspect requires closer attention. All drilling activity requires energy, which produces GHGs; producing unconventional oil and gas, however, usually requires far more energy than drilling for conventional fuels and so emits a correspondingly greater amount of GHGs.
The public efforts on behalf of climate change in the media are missing a grand opportunity.
If I were in that wonderful and ominous clique we call the Mainstream Media, every single time that Rick Santorum defends his preposterous public policy positions regarding contraception by using the Church Defense*, I would ask him why he rejects climate science.
It would require a presidential candidate to publicly proclaim not only that he rejects accepted science, but that he rejects his Church’s very clear stance on that science for political purposes. The Catholic Church’s position on Climate Change cannot be more clear. So how do politically conservative Catholic candidates and elected officials continually get to use the Church Defense on contraception, while ignoring the Church on climate change?
If you are capable of defending a policy choice that would hinder access to the most commonplace of activities because your Church advocates it, how can you reject commonly accepted science that is also accepted by your Church?
This point is missed time after time, and it’s a shame. This really has nothing to do with Rick Santorum or even just the Catholic Church; many mainline and evangelical churches also acknowledge the reality of climate change while their political representatives ignore or campaign against it. Instead, it has to do with the fact that rejecting climate change science has no real defense, and our media has allowed an entire political party to walk away from reality for no reason beyond politics.
Mainstream media, you miss every chance you have to make that point. Alas.
**Rick Santorum has been relying more and more on what I call the Church Defense for his position on contraception. The Church Defense, from Rick Santorum, on his policy plans for contraception: ”I’m reflecting the views of the church that I believe in,” he said. “We used to be tolerant of those beliefs. I guess now when you have beliefs that are consistent with the church, somehow, now you’re out of the mainstream.”
President Obama has been presented with a great luxury. While the Republican candidates for President are finding new ways to draw (political) blood, the President can remain free from the muck. The muck will of course come to him, but the longer the GOP folks fight amongst themselves, the more time Obama has to remind America why he inspired them in the first place: he is an awfully engaging, powerful campaigner. When full campaign mode comes, it won’t be easy for President Obama, obviously. There will be a terrible, ugly fight. Just as Liberals shouldn’t get too over-confident as Santorum and Romney say stupid thing after stupid thing, the GOP shouldn’t forget who they are running against.
Just thinking strictly politically, if I were a Republican, I would worry that one these two:
will eventually have to engage with this guy:
The idea of the separation of Church and State is integral to the United States. Upholding the idea remains as important today as it was when our founders built a nation that expressly forbid the mingling of the Church with the operations of the government.
Rick Santorum, though, disagrees. He says:
“I don’t believe in an America where the separation of church and state are absolute,” he told ‘This Week’ host George Stephanopoulos. “The idea that the church can have no influence or no involvement in the operation of the state is absolutely antithetical to the objectives and vision of our country…to say that people of faith have no role in the public square? You bet that makes me want to throw up.”
Two quick things for Mr. Santorum.
One: I disagree vehemently, and am terrified that a Presidential candidate would claim that the church should have influence and invovlement in the operations of the state. That is unconstitutional, and opposes the very foundation of the US as a nation by people who understood the dangers of allowing the inter-mingling of the two. It’s one of the reasons we decided England just wasn’t for us. Bone up on your Thomas Jefferson.
Two: Your second point is invalid, as the separation of church and state does NOT say that people of faith have no role in the public square. People of faith have every right to civic and public involvement, and any notion that people of faith are somehow kept out of the public square is just straight lunacy. See many atheists running our government, do you Mr. Santorum? Your brand of Christianity already has too much of a role in our government for comfort, and to hear you claim otherwise shows how capable you are of ignoring reality.
You have it backwards, and you need to learn: the idea that the church can have influence and involvement over the operation of the government is antithetical to the objectives and vision of our country. People of faith, of all faiths, are welcome into the process. But the church is not.
I’m still pretty worked up about the birth control argument that has been underway in American Politics. I think it is embarrassing and disgraceful and representative of a time that we should collectively have left in our past.
Anyway. It’s worth a look. Because the issue remains important, and the news that all-male congressional hearings are taking place to determine such an issue as female reproductive rights only highlights how tone-deaf too many people still are, in 2012, regarding such an everyday, commonplace element of the modern life.
For some reason I cannot understand, Grover Norquist holds immense power in the modern Republican Party. If Grover tells Republicans to sign their name on a sheet of paper promising to do what Grover Norquist says is best for the country, for the most part candidates and officials sign their name to that paper. They may say otherwise, but they don’t act otherwise.
Norquist holds a lot of sway in the party. He’s not the ultimate arbiter of power and all things conservative, but still, he’s a force. And his opinions on the Republican presidential candidates matters.
So what is Norquist looking for a in a president? Here is at CPAC.
Pick a Republican with enough working digits to handle a pen to become president of the United States. This is a change for Republicans: the House and Senate doing the work with the president signing bills. His job is to be captain of the team, to sign the legislation that has already been prepared.
All we have to do is replace Obama. … We are not auditioning for fearless leader. We don’t need a president to tell us in what direction to go. We know what direction to go. We want the Ryan budget. … We just need a president to sign this stuff. We don’t need someone to think it up or design it.
Yep. When choosing the quote leader of the free world unquote, we need someone who will do what he is told and will not attempt to be a leader or an autonomous human being with ideas to improve the nation. No. Pick someone with hands. Because the only thing that matters to Grover Norquist is that Obama loses to any Republican who will take Grover Norquist’s orders.
I assume Norquist has Romney in mind, since Romney is not a fully autonomous human anyway, but is a well oiled deliverer of adviser determined talking points. Or so it seems.
This may be a relatively politically astute position, designed to craft future policy to decrease Americans tax burdens, but it is still toxic to the health of the nation. Putting your faith solely in congress, let alone THIS congress, will not be good for anyone.
Anyway. Conservatives, Grover Norquist is poison to your party and our country, and following him too closely will not help your cause. Don’t let him drive you in to the ground.
In a piece at Politico on the lobby reports for Keystone XL, there is mention of a Quaker lobbying group and their involvement in Keystone efforts.
That caught my eye. So I checked out the Friends statement on the Keystone XL, and must say, I was warmed to think that TRC’s position is the same as that of the Quakers. Isn’t it always better to be on the side of the Quakers?
The over-arching concern with the Keystone project is that it represents an immense investment in dangerously dirty technology and backward thinking. Not only would the pipeline promote greater production of and access to fossil fuels, but it would take us further in the wrong direction in a time when our energy economy and the infrastructure that supports it should be undergoing fundamental change.
If you want to support the dirty, dangerous pipeline, you’re going to have to argue with the Society of Friends. And why would you want to argue with a group whose message is peace, equality, justice and simplicity?
This political spot was aired in Michigan during the Super Bowl yesterday. Which means a lot of people saw it.
It is amazing that a political team can watch this video and no one said, “Sir, I’m not so sure this is a good idea.”
How about instead, Pete Hoekstra, you make your case that Rep. Debbi Stabenow’s policies are sending money and jobs abroad without appealing to imagery that belittles the Chinese with 1950s depictions of foreign individuals (you thought using that music was good for you?). This may not be “racist,” I’ll let others determine that. But this ad is, at best, terrible, and at worst, extremely anti-China.
Apparently the Hoekstra campaigned considered the possibility that this ad would be seen as racist. “We were aware of the possibility that [Democrats would] raise the race issue.” Yes. Only Democrats speak out against xenophobia. He also claimed the “ad was not insensitive to Chinese Americans.” Because that decision is up to Pete Hoekstra.
In defending his political ad on Monday, the Hoekstra campaign said: “This is about as fact-checked and accurate you can get.” Indeed. In the future, you don’t need your fact-checkers to back up an add that has no factual information and instead just makes bland statements about sending jobs to China.
Also: Here’s Andrew Sullivan with a worthy quip:
Of all the representations of a Chinese person to make an enemy of the American worker, Hoekstra had to pick a peasant girl? Not a financial tycoon in Shanghai, or a factory owner in Guangzhou? Damn those peasants for trying to escape abject poverty!
I’m familiar with Montana Congressman Denny Rehberg from my days out in Missoula. He’s a western conservative, and upholds a lot of that Western Conservatism. Needless to say, he was not terribly popular in the Environmental Studies Graduate Department.
He’s now running for senate against Sen. Jon Tester, who I met in D.C. and was quite impressed with. Tester also emanates Western-ness, but of a different ilk. Both Tester and Rehberg are multi-generational farmers in Montana, and give you that sense–if you are from the Midwest–of The West.
Anyway. One of the things Rehberg wants to do in the Senate is change child labor laws regarding what children are allowed to do on their family farms. Rehberg wants to relax the laws, to enable kids to do more tasks. A rule change, it should be noted, that Tester also supports. And Tester probably makes a good spokesman for child farm labor, having lost three fingers in a meat-grinder at 9 years old in the family butcher shop.
I don’ t know much about these rules, beyond joking about child labor regulations while spending summers on a farm back in my early teens. They were jokes we kids loved, but no so much the farmers. But something Rehberg said caught my eye.
Talking about his ranching operation, Rehberg said:
“I don’t rope and I don’t tie and I don’t brand with a hot iron,” he went on, adding that he uses modern equipment that he said is virtually incapable of hurting children.
“You can’t get hurt,” Rehberg fumed. “It’s impossible. You could have a five-year-old out there running it.”…
“I’ve come to the conclusion in my 11 years in Congress that it isn’t necessarily a difference in philosophy between Republicans and Democrats — there’s a difference in philosophy between urban and rural,” Rehberg said.”
That is two very fascinating sentiments. One of which is relatively insightful and the other, well, probably more insulting to ranchers.
The rural and urban divide, like the divide between rich and poor, is becoming (if it hasn’t always been) a defining characteristic of contemporary American life. And the ‘old ways,’ for lack of a better term, should not be ignored by urban lawmakers. Which isn’t to say we should allow children to be put in danger to protect tradition.
It is only to say, such things are complicated and need recognizing.
Sorry about that.
I’m not quite sure what possessed me to open the pages of TRC to the opposition argument on climate change presented by the Wall Street Journal Op-Ed page. The editorial, signed by 16 scientists, makes a terrible argument against climate change. I guess I was just feeling that day like that was a reasonable thing to do.
Of course it isn’t. I stated in that post that there is nothing new in their argument, and nothing that has not been thoroughly discredited. But still. If you want more proof, Bad Astronomy takes down the boldest of the mis-information pieces.
Needless to say, the Wall Street Journal op-ed page won’t be represented here as an open and fairly treated source. Because they are unwilling to do the same. It is no surprise that they posted a global warming denialist editorial. It is actually a surprise that they won’t publish science-based reality in the same pages.
An editorial page that does not open its arms to the opposition makes them hacks. We all know that the WSJ op-ed page is an obvious supporter of Republican and Conservative politics, which is fine. We all have our biases. But I actually did not think that the WSJ was willing to stoop to such embarrassment for the purpose of political absurdity. Shit. If the NY Times will publish Robert Bryce-the fossil fuel funded “expert” on a mission to oppose any environmentally friendly energy development, you can find a place for reality.
So, when I heard that the WSJ accepted an op-ed piece signed by 16 scientists (4 of whom are climate-related) that based itself on claims that have been scientifically refuted over and over, and then turned around and rejected an op-ed signed by 255 scientists from the field in support of the accepted science of climate change, I regretted my decision to post fairly about their published ‘scientific’ editorial. WSJ, I tried to give you the benefit. What a terrible decision.
The most amazing and telling evidence of the bias of the Wall Street Journal in this field is the fact that 255 members of the United States National Academy of Sciences wrote a comparable (but scientifically accurate) essay on the realities of climate change and on the need for improved and serious public debate around the issue, offered it to the Wall Street Journal, and were turned down. The National Academy of Sciences is the nation’s pre-eminent independent scientific organizations. Its members are among the most respected in the world in their fields. Yet the Journal wouldn’t publish this letter, from more than 15 times as many top scientists. Instead they chose to publish an error-filled and misleading piece on climate because some so-called experts aligned with their bias signed it. This may be good politics for them, but it is bad science and it is bad for the nation.
WE ARE DEEPLY DISTURBED BY THE RECENT ESCALATION OF POLITICAL ASSAULTS ON SCIENTISTS in general and on climate scientists in particular. All citizens should understand some basic scientiﬁc facts. There is always some uncertainty associated with scientiﬁc conclusions; science never absolutely proves anything. When someone says that society should wait until scientists are absolutely certain before taking any action, it is the same as saying society should never take action. For a problem as potentially catastrophic as climate change, taking no action poses a dangerous risk for our planet.