Wednesday :: May 14, 2008

The Media Are the Menace: McCain and Climate Change


by Turkana

The New York Times Editorial Page graciously provides us with an example of why running against John McCain will be so difficult, even in a year that's shaping up as a Democratic tidal wave. As Steve pointed out, just yesterday, John McCain is trying to recast himself as a green conservative. The Times buys it:

John McCain has been engaged in the fight against global warming for years, even at the expense of breaking with Republican orthodoxy and with President Bush on the issue. But it was still an important moment this week when Mr. McCain, the presumed Republican presidential nominee, decided to raise the profile of climate change in the 2008 campaign. We have clearly entered the post-Bush era of policy and politics on climate change. However this election turns out, the United States will have a president who supports mandatory cuts in greenhouse gases. It is possible to begin to believe in the prospect of serious Congressional action.

The "post-Bush era" is not exactly a high bar. One could step over it without one's feet leaving the ground. Being better than Bush on environmental issues is like being smarter than Bush- most sentient beings are. Most non-sentient beings, too, for that matter. But as Joseph Romm recently pointed out in Salon:

While McCain may understand the scale of the climate problem, he does not appear to understand the scale of the solution. He understands the country needs to put in place a mandatory cap on GHG emissions and a trading system to energize American innovation. But in a recent Republican debate, he denied that a cap and trade system is a mandate, even though it would arguably be the most far-reaching government mandate ever legislated.

Moreover, like most conservatives, he doesn't understand or accept the critical role government must play to make that system succeed. Besides initiating a cap-and-trade system, the next president must:

1. Appoint judges who won't gut climate-change efforts.

2. Appoint leaders and staff of key federal agencies who take climate change seriously and believe in the necessary solutions.

3. Embrace an aggressive and broad-based technology deployment strategy to keep the cost of the cap-and-trade system as low as possible.

4. Lead a change in utility regulations to encourage, rather than discourage, energy efficiency and clean energy.

5. Offer strong public advocacy to reverse the years of muzzling and misinformation of the Bush administration.

McCain, of course, would appoint industry lackies such as Alito and Roberts to the Supreme Court. His pool of candidates to appoint to federal agencies who both believe in global warming's existence and are Republicans could fit in a thimble. Furthermore:

The only technological solution to global warming that McCain consistently advocates is nuclear power. In his signature environmental legislation, the 2007 Climate Stewardship and Innovation Act, written with Joe Lieberman, McCain wants to devote a remarkable $3.7 billion in federal subsidies to nuclear power plants. According to an analysis by U.S. PIRG, a federation of public interest groups, the money would go for "engineering and design costs, loans and loan guarantees for building three new plants, and direct financial awards for new projects."

Yet when Grist asked McCain, "What's your position on subsidies for green technologies like wind and solar?" he said:

"I'm not one who believes that we need to subsidize things. The wind industry is doing fine, the solar industry is doing fine. In the '70s, we gave too many subsidies and too much help, and we had substandard products sold to the American people, which then made them disenchanted with solar for a long time."

Incredible. Nuclear power, a mature technology that provides 20 percent of U.S. electricity, must be heavily subsidized -- even after more than $66 billion in federal subsidies since World War II (five times what was spent on renewable and eight times what was spent on efficiency, according to the Congressional Research Service). But subsidize solar photovoltaics, a rapidly evolving technology that comprises 0.1 percent of U.S. electricity? No, we can't help them.

Like most Republicans, McCain also opposes the very concept of government regulation, so don't expect any leadership with the utilities.

The energy plans of both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton seek to change electric utility regulations and toughen appliance standards. Both would set standards for renewable power and fuels. Both would spend $150 billion over 10 years on developing and deploying clean technology, green buildings and advanced electric grid infrastructure.

McCain believes the most important strategy is a "cap and trade" system that creates a price for carbon dioxide in the form of a tradable emissions permit, with the goal of mobilizing the marketplace to solve the climate problem. Yet while a cap-and-trade system is necessary to solve the climate problem, it is not sufficient. Indeed, if you adopt a cap-and-trade system without an aggressive federal effort to encourage the deployment of clean technologies, you are almost sure to fail politically, probably sooner than later.

To anyone paying attention to anything other than McCain's lip service, he would be a complete failure on the most important issue humanity has ever faced. The Times Editorial Page wants you to believe that McCain is nearly as good as the Democratic candidates:

At this stage, it would be a mistake to make too much of these differences, including the overall targets. With emissions continuing to rise, and the demand for energy expected to grow, any plan that calls for a big downward wrench in emissions will demand huge investments in cleaner ways of producing energy and far more fuel-efficient vehicles. Above all, it will require determined and courageous leadership from a president capable of conveying hard truths and asking a lot of the country.

The Times Editorial Board are not serious people. They do not pay attention to facts. Romm does, and offers a alightly different conclusion:

Given the lost Bush decade, avoiding catastrophic global warming will be one of the most difficult things this country and the world has ever accomplished. Only mandated emissions reductions coupled with aggressive federal tech deployment strategies (managed by appointees who believe in climate change and those strategies) can save future generations from a ruined planet. Only strong and consistent public advocacy by the next president and his entire administration, along with Congress, can reverse the years of muzzling and misinformation of the Bush administration and its conservative allies.

McCain does not appear to be that advocate. He is a conservative who happens to be on the only intellectually defensible side of the climate change debate. But he is still a conservative, and the vast majority of the solutions to global warming are progressive in nature -- they require strong government action, including major federal efforts to spur clean technology. McCain will inevitably appoint to key positions a great many conservatives who are skeptical of global warming and government-driven solutions. And he has promised to oversee the transition to a smaller government -- which will be inevitable if he slashes spending in order to make the Bush tax cuts permanent while funding the Iraq war for the duration of his presidency.

McCain belongs in the Senate, where he is a rare conservative vote for action on climate change. But a President McCain is not likely to be the leader this country and the world needs to maintain the planet's livability for our children and the next 50 generations.

Remember when the media tried to tell us Bush and Al Gore were essentially the same? Eight years later, and they're playing the same game: McCain the maverick, McCain the moderate, McCain the sane conservative. The Big Lie can't be allowed to again succeed.

Turkana :: 11:35 AM :: Comments (2) :: Digg It!