June 17, 2010


Environmentalists as Battered Spouses: Greens keep returning to their abuser after another promise to do good, but nothing in President Obama’s oil spill speech should offer them any hope that the administration is really going to change. (Steven F. Hayward, June 17, 2010, American)

Word around town before the oil spill was that environmentalists were ready to swallow additional offshore drilling and new nuclear power subsidies to gain Republican votes for the Kerry-Lieberman climate bill. They had been told by White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel to shut up and fall in line, you green mother-earth frog-lovers—or something close to that. There’s no way environmentalists would have accepted this deal had Bush been president or a Republican Congress proposed the compromise package. In fact, during the Bush years environmentalists said they would oppose any cap-and-trade scheme that allocated the emission permits for free, demanding instead (and quite soundly I might add) that most or all be auctioned instead. But when the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill gave away 90 percent of the initial emissions allowances for free, the environmental establishment (with a few notable exceptions such as Greenpeace) said. . . nothing.

Eric Pooley’s new book, The Climate War (currently excerpted on Slate.com) offers even more evidence that environmentalists can be pushed around by Democrats with virtual impunity. As Pooley reports, from the earliest days of the Obama presidency, White House support for a cap on carbon emissions “has been all talk—and even the talk tends to get watered down.” Pooley quotes an unnamed White House insider: “You had this incredible green Cabinet of really committed people, but the only thing that really matters is what the president says—so everyone was trying to get words into his mouth. And Rahm was trying to keep the words out of his mouth. It was just a chronic pattern of infighting.”

The greenies in the White House (and Al Gore on the outside) pressed hard for Obama to make a more serious effort. “But then there were the Washington operatives on the political and economic teams who did not want to waste a bunch of bullets on some weirdo green crusade when the polling numbers weren’t there, and it would be a bloody battle to take that hill. They said, ‘Let’s go take some other hill.’”

Pooley adds this additional detail:

When corporate and environmental leaders from the U.S. Climate Action Partnership went to the Roosevelt Room in the West Wing for a late spring 2009 meeting with Emanuel, they could see that he didn’t much care about climate change. What he cared about was winning—acquiring and maintaining presidential power over an eight-year arc. Climate and energy were agenda items to him, pieces on a legislative chessboard; he was willing to play them only in ways that enhanced Obama’s larger objectives. He saw no point in squandering capital on a lost cause. (Emphasis added.)

Pooley’s bottom line: “The chief of staff was an obstacle to climate action.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 17, 2010 9:23 AM
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