Left Pushback on Waxman-Markey: Is It Time to Start Over?
The battle cry of Joseph Romm at Climate Progress (Center for American Progress) earlier this year was “Obama Can Get a Better Climate Bill in 2010: Here’s How.” But now Romm is in panic mode, trying to convince the rebelling Environmental Left that the out-of-control Waxman-Markey climate change bill (now 1,090 1,201 pages) is the last best hope to save civilization. As Romm stated in a post yesterday:
Waxman-Markey is the only game in town. If it fails, I see no chance whatsoever of stabilizing anywhere near 350 to 450 ppm since serious U.S. action would certainly be off the table for years, the effort to jumpstart the clean energy economy in this country would stall, the international negotiating process would fall apart, and any chance of a deal with China would be dead.
But given that Waxman-Markey is climatically inconsequential, a fact that Romm does not dispute ( “well, duh“, he said), the hard Left is understandably getting restless, even rebelling against the pseudo climate bill. After all, who really wants an Enronesque cap-and-trade bill that enriches lawyers and corporate types at the expense of everyone else? The first comment on Romm’s blog at Climate Progress made this point:
No. I’m sorry, but the first question everyone must ask about Waxman-Markey is “Did we really need more than 600 pages to do legislate what needs to be done and isn’t 600 pages of dense text likely to have hidden in it so many loopholes, exceptions, obscure procedures and contrary regulations and guidelines that no one except a high-powered corporate law firm will be able to make total sense of it (and thus be able to use it to their corporate clients benefit).”
For the same reason, to Romm’s chagrin, NASA scientist and Al Gore mentor James Hansen got off the Waxman-Markey bandwagon 553 pages ago. Hansen complained:
Governments are retreating to feckless “cap-and-trade”, a minor tweak to business-as-usual…. The 648-page cap-and-trade monstrosity that is being foisted on the U.S. Congress provides the answer. Not a single Congressperson has read it. They don’t need to – they just need to add more paragraphs to support their own special interests. By the way, the Congress people do not write most of those paragraphs—they are “suggested” by people in alligator shoes.
What Happened to Radical Romm?
Romm’s about-face from radical to incrementalist is noteworthy. Perhaps his superiors at the Center for American Progress put the heat on him. But whatever the reason (he will have to tell us later), Romm has committed himself to a watered-out Waxman-Markey and now finds himself on a slow boat to China.
“Has Joe Romm gone missing?” asked Roger Pielke Jr., the oft-target of take-no-prisoners Romm. Pielke begins:
I’ve come to depend upon Joe Romm for ideological rigidity and his unwavering faith in his own infallibility. Such commitment provides a useful touchstone in the climate debate. So I have been dismayed to see Romm not just abandon some of his most firmly held views, but sprint in the opposite direction while at the same time lambasting those who would have the gall to espouse views that he only recently held. Such relativism smacks of kowtowing to political expediency while ignoring policy outcomes or even something even more sinister, maybe even involving the . . . deniers.
Perhaps the real Joe Romm has been kidnapped, and an offset-loving, climate-delayer-eq, fossil fuel drinking replacement has been quietly spirited into his place? A look at the recent flip-flopping by Joe Romm might help us understand the transformation, and with some luck, locate the real Joe Romm and return him to his proper place in the climate debate.
When a coalition of middle-of-the-road environmental groups and large businesses came out with the USCAP proposal for cap and trade, Joe Romm came out in his usual forceful way against their proposal (and especially its reliance on offsets):
“The U.S. Climate Action Partnership — a coalition of businesses and enviros once though to be important — have released their wimpy Blueprint for Legislative Action.
I can sort of understand why, say, Duke Energy, signed on to this, but NRDC and EDF and WRI have a lot of explaining to do. As we will see, this proposal would be wholly inadequate as a final piece of legislation. As a starting point it is unilateral disarmament to the conservative politicians and big fossil fuel companies who will be working hard to gut any bill. Kudos to the National Wildlife Federation for withdrawing from USCAP rather than signing on.”
Pielke notes the irony:
It turns out that the USCAP proposal “was the basis for the Waxman-Markey” bill, according to Romm. At some point Romm’s views changed, and not just by a little — his rhetoric on USCAP/Waxman-Markey has flip-flopped 180 degrees, going from labeling USCAP/Waxman-Markey as representing “unilateral disarmament to the conservative politicians and big fossil fuel companies” to a cryptic message explaining “How I learned to stop worrying and love Waxman-Markey.” Particularly odd is Romm coming out in strong defense of the potential use of domestic and international offsets to fulfill the bulk of the “emissions reduction” requirements of Waxman-Markey, given that Romm has been/was among the most vocal opponents of the use of offsets to represent “emissions reductions” — and rightly so in my view.. Has Romm joined the board of Duke Energy? What gives? Is he now a “denier-eq 1000? (to speak in Romm-ese)?
A New Way Forward?
The inevitable politicization of climate policy–call it government failure–should lead well-meaning, open-minded environmentalists to check their premises and consider a nonpolitical approach to what they see as market failure. After all, the imperfect government must be weighted against the imperfect market. Perhaps a revolt against political capitalism, or what in this area is called the climate-industrial complex, will bring about the end of not only Waxman-Markey but the futile crusade to “stabilize climate.”