Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Whatever happened to Climate Change?

I heard an interesting statistic on the presidential debates last week. All together, there were over 50,000 words spoken by the candidates at the four debates. Some were interesting, others, not so much. But there was a glaring omission in all the debates...the phrases global warming and climate change weren't mentioned, not even once, by any of the candidates. Somewhat surprising, since "green" initiatives have been a cornerstone of President Obama's administration, and issues like the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Solyndra, and the proposed Canadian oil pipeline through the Midwest have raised awareness of the issues to probably their highest level in the consciousness of the average American.

Why not, if so many people are tuned in to the subject? You would think that each side would want to take their own high ground and exploit the other side's weaknesses. The answer is, the climate issue has become dangerous ground for both sides. And that is because of four reasons, as clarified in this article in The Week.

  1. "All the solutions are politically toxic." As the author of the article points out, all man-made solutions to man-made climate change involve either increasing taxes, or increasing regulations, which leads to higher energy costs.
  2. "Voters like being in denial." It is the authors perception that voters would prefer not to deal with a potential threat that is farther away, than say, a century, at the cost of current dollars. Gee, I wonder why?
  3. "It's all about Ohio, stupid." Much of Ohio, like much of Pennsylvania and all of West Virginia, is coal country, and both candidates have used anti-coal rhetoric in their political pasts, despite both being proponents of "all of the above" energy strategies. Everything, that is, except coal.
  4. "Romney and Obama are letting their surrogates make their case." In other words, the surrogates tell the smaller, targeted crowds what they want to hear, out of the national limelight.
Sort of what President Obama does here, in this MTV interview. I didn't know there were MTV interviews, did you?




The President tells a pretty good story here, which is why I was surprised he didn't at least throw out at least a mention of this in the debates. However, there is one additional progressive step toward climate change action that the president should take credit for, but seems shy about. As blogger Gina-Marie Cheeseman points out in a recent post on Triple Pundit:
"What is surprising is that he didn’t mention the EPA rule, finalized in August, under the Clean Air Act that deals with emissions from power plants. The rule limits carbon emissions from new power plants to 1,000 pounds per megawatt hour of power produced. It seems to me that rule should have been mentioned as third on the list of things the Obama administration has done to deal with climate change."
You see, Gina-Marie, it's that coal thing again. That EPA rule, which would never be passed by Congress in its current make-up, effectively forces the power companies to shut down their older coal plants and disincentivizes any future coal plants. Which is accomplishing exactly what President Obama intended, back in 2008 when he admitted that his energy policy plans would make electricity rates 'necessarily skyrocket'. Inexpensive coal power production is down over 40% since the President has taken office, even though coal energy production has gone wild in China and India, as he admitted in the video above. You see, they prioritize their national economies ahead of climate change regulation. Silly, isn't it?

Source: Energy Information Administration, http://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.cfm?id=6990

I'm not sure if we will follow the President on his course or not. I observed a hint of how the coal country folks are leaning right now. Last week, on the road from State College to Western Maryland, and then over to Gettysburg, and Harrisburg, and back, I started counting yard signs. Just counted one sign per yard, and ignored the obvious campaign offices. Ten miles from home, I counted sign number 100. Tally: 94 for Governor Romney, 6 for President Obama.

So, I guess the governor feels like he doesn't have to raise the issue, and the president doesn't want to. All I know is, with more coal mines shutting down every month, I'm taking steps to lower my own electricity consumption. Which, of course, is exactly what progressives want me to do. But I have a surprise for them, which falls into the area of unintended consequences. It's called natural gas. More on that later.

Actually, I think it is a good thing for climate change and scientific issues like it to stay out of the political campaigns. Maybe then we could have rational discussions about it, like the one below. And then, we could let the free market decide.



If more interviews were like this, we might reach better agreement on how to improve our national energy policy. But until we do, campaign contributions and back-room deals will make those decisions for us.

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