It’s a bleak and bloody political landscape this morning in Washington for anyone interested in progressive politics on climate and energy.
The Democrats lost badly. It was the biggest switch of seats since 1948, so, it was a big, big election victory for the Republicans and the new kids on the block, the Tea Party.
The GOP and Tea Party are naturally in a triumphalist mood and are already preparing for battle for the presidnecy in 2012.
Jim DeMint a Republican senator from South Carolina and Tea party favourite, writes in the WSJ today: “Tea party Republicans were elected to go to Washington and save the country—not be co-opted by the club. So put on your boxing gloves. The fight begins today.”
Whilst health care reform and a reduction in government will be priorities, there is no doubt that any climate change legislation will suffer. As I blogged yesterday, they will go after the EPA big time.
The chances of any climate legislation being past in the Senate looks long gone. The Senate welcomes more climate sceptics and those close to Big Oil, as one commentator from Seattle noted: “The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Republicans elected to the Senate Tuesday have a record of subservience to Big Oil and Big Coal, Roy Blunt a case in point.”
Another prominent Democratic to lose was Sen. Russ Feingold who was defeated by Republican businessman Ron Johnson, who is a known vocal climate sceptic. Johnson says that climate change “it’s not settled science” and speculates that sunspots create natural changes in Earth’s temperature.
The only slight good news comes from California where it looks like Prop 23 – the oil industry backed fight to overturn climate laws – had been rejected. The latest figures are that with more than 3.5 million votes counted, Prop. 23 was being rejected by more than 59% of California voters.
On this site we have exposed how dirty oil was funding this anti-climate campaign.
The Environmental Defense Fund’s political director Wade Crowfoot called the victory “overwhelming.” Crowfoot argues that “By rejecting Prop 23, Californians voiced their support for economic expansion in the booming clean tech sector and improved air quality and public health … In voting down Prop 23, Californians rejected the scare tactics and the false arguments of the two Texas oil companies, Valero and Teroso.”
While all that may be true, its helpful to have a clear eyed view of the reasons for victory in California. Environmentalists, allied with Hollywood, clean energy business, Google, Gates and others, outspent the industry by 3:1 on Prop 23.
In other words, if one of the lessons to draw here is that environmentalists win when they outspend the opposition, that has sobering strategic implications for the climate and energy movement in the US. Beating Big Oil by outspending them is not a strategy for long term success.
Meanwhile, in one other bit of good news in New Mexico yesterday, the state passed its own measure to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, although this had nothing to do with the polls.
The new policy, approved by the state’s Environmental Improvement Board in a 4-3 vote, calls for large coal- and gas-fired power plants, as well as oil and gas operators, to cut greenhouse-gas emissions by 2% per year. The measure is intended to be the first step towards a regional cap-and-trade system.
“We’re thrilled,” John Fogarty, president of carbon-reduction advocacy group New Energy Economy, said in a statement. “This regulation sends a clear signal: New Mexico is open for business in the new energy economy. It will attract new investment to the state and create good, high-paying jobs in the solar and wind energy industries.”
Local officials were elated with the board’s decision. “Every single board member agreed that climate change is one of most important issues of our time that has to be addressed”, said Sandra Ely, environment and energy policy coordinator with the Environment Department.
Pity the same cannot be said about the new politicians in Washington or even the new Governor for New Mexico, who is a climate sceptic, Susana Martinez., and who doubts the human causes of global warming.