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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Another Bursting Bubble?

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Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenbergers say Democrats "must break once and for all from green orthodoxy":

The green bubble bursts, by Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger, Commentary, LA Times: ...Democrats and their environmental allies face a political challenge they could hardly have imagined just a few months ago. America's growing dependence on fossil fuels, once viewed as a Democratic trump card held alongside the Iraq war and the deflating economy, has become a lodestone instead. Republicans stole the energy issue from Democrats by proposing expanded drilling ... to bring down gasoline prices. ...

Democrats and greens ended up in this predicament because they believed their own press clippings -- or, perhaps more accurately, Al Gore's. After the release of ... "An Inconvenient Truth," greens convinced themselves that U.S. public opinion on climate change had shifted dramatically, despite having no empirical evidence that was the case. In fact, public concern about global warming was about the same before the movie..., hovering near the bottom of the Pew Center for People and the Press' top 20 priorities.

By contrast, public concern about gasoline and energy prices has shifted dramatically..., gas prices became the second-highest concern after the economy, according to Gallup.

This summer, elite opinion ran headlong into American popular opinion. The train wreck ... went by the name of the Climate Security Act. That bill to cap U.S. greenhouse gas emissions would have, by all accounts..., increased gasoline and energy prices. ...Democrats brought the bill to the Senate floor in June when gas prices were well over $4 a gallon in most of the country. Republicans were all too happy to join that fight.

Indeed, they ... relished the opportunity to accuse Democrats of raising gasoline prices in the midst of an energy crisis... Democratic leaders finally killed the debate to avert an embarrassing defeat... Republicans have been bludgeoning Democrats with it ever since. ...

In following greens, Democrats allowed McCain and Republicans to cast them as the party out of touch with the pocketbook concerns of middle-class Americans and captive to special interests that prioritize remote wilderness over economic prosperity. ...

The most influential environmental groups in Washington -- the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Environmental Defense Fund -- are continuing to bet the farm on ... making fossil fuels more expensive in order to encourage conservation, efficiency and renewable energy. But with an economic recession likely, and energy prices sure to remain high for years to come..., any strategy predicated centrally on making fossil fuels more expensive is doomed to failure.

A better approach is to make clean energy cheap through technology innovation funded directly by the federal government. In contrast to raising energy prices, investing somewhere between $30 billion and $50 billion annually in technology R&D, infrastructure and transmission lines to bring power from windy and sunny places to cities is overwhelmingly popular with voters. Instead of embracing this big investment, greens and Democrats push instead for tiny tax credits for renewable energy -- nothing approaching the national commitment that's needed.

With just six weeks before the election, the bursting of the green bubble is a wake-up call for Democrats. Environmental groups, perpetually certain that a new ecological age is about to dawn in America, have serially overestimated their strength and misread public opinion. Democrats must break once and for all from green orthodoxy that focuses primarily on making dirty energy more expensive and instead embrace a strategy to make clean energy cheap. ...

    Posted by on Tuesday, September 30, 2008 at 02:07 AM in Economics, Environment, Policy, Politics | Permalink  TrackBack (0)  Comments (100)

          

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