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Category Archives: New Yorker

In a piece earlier this month, the New Yorker's Ryan Lizza describes climate change reform efforts from January 2009-April 2010 that represented the best chance to slow down our nations’ runaway heat-trapping emissions.  The account reads with the drama of a soap opera as Senators Kerry, Graham and Leiberman (KGL) attempt to compose a patchwork alliance capable of supporting a sorely needed bill on climate change.

At the time, the team advocated “cap and trade” strategy.  Cap and trade would create a market wherein shares of carbon output were sold and traded by all industries responsible for carbon output.  Not surprisingly, for those Senators with any energy-based corporate interests or even for those who oppose the expansion of federal powers as a matter of general principle, such a reform system posed serious problems.  To recruit necessary support, KGL engaged in the hollowed craft of all successful policymakers:  negotiation. 

Senator Graham, along with other Republican Senators, received nuclear subsidies and nuclear loan guarantees in exchange for their support.  Energy corporations Shell, B.P. and ConocoPhilips agreed to refrain from lethal advertisements if the bill included a more stable “linked-fee” for the carbon shares. KGL raised even more support by opening coastal areas for oil-drilling and delaying the implementation date of the cap and trade system until 2011.  

However, in February 2009 the White Housing announced a federal budget that included $54.4 billion in nuclear loan guarantees.  Then, the EPA agreed to delay any carbon regulations measures until 2011.  Sweeping the final leg from beneath the reform effort, on March 31stthe White House made the independent announcement that it would open up portions of the East and Gulf Coast for drilling!  By the end of April the effort was without legs and without any support: the Gulf Oil Spill was widely recognized as a federal failure to regulate public goods responsibly.  Naturally, no Senator worth their weight could support a bill that opened up any more US territory for drilling.   

Among so many other things, I think this story reinforces the need for a sense of environmentally-conscious harmony and an appreciation for our government structure, as hokey as it may sounds.  Why this particular effort failed may be less an issue of ignorance as it is may be a consequence of our prized and, necessarily, fragile democracy.  For each Senator and special interest group to exert themselves on global reform policy, let alone particular policy, is such a wondrous expectation, isn’t it?