Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Geography of Climate Politics

Here are excepts from my latest post at HuffingtonPost. Head here for the full post...

When it comes to the geography of climate politics, it doesn't break down along the much-ballyhooed "red state/blue state" divide. It's really more about coal states vs. clean states, as John Broder reports in yesterday's New York Times. That's a rift that risks dividing Senate Democrats as climate policies move forward in the 111th Congress.

By coincidence or design, most of the policy makers on Capitol Hill and in the administration charged with shaping legislation to address global warming come from California or the East Coast, regions that lead the country in environmental regulation and the push for renewable energy sources.

That is a problem, says a group of Democratic lawmakers from the Midwest and Plains States, which are heavily dependent on coal and manufacturing. The lawmakers have banded together to fight legislation they think might further damage their economies.

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Broder notes, "This brown state-green state clash is likely to encumber any effort to set a mandatory ceiling on the carbon dioxide emissions"... that is, unless climate advocates heed the concerns of the "Technology Fifteen." That's the group of moderate Democratic Senators who have banded together to ensure that the concerns of their "middle America" states are not ignored in the upcoming climate debates.

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One quote in Broder's article from Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan sums up the Technology Fifteen's concerns clearly and concisely:

"My message over all is that for us to support what needs to be done in addressing global warming we need to demonstrate that, in fact, jobs are created," Ms. Stabenow said. "It's not a theoretical argument. We have to come up with a policy that makes sense, that is manageable on the cost end, that creates new technology, and that treats states equitably and addresses regional differences."

So, for climate advocates, that's our test: if we want climate policy passed in the US, we need to convince Senators Stabenow, Brown and the rest of the Technology Fifteen that (a) our policy proposal is actually good for their states' economies (rhetoric aside), (b) the costs of compliance are manageable and contained, (c) it will invest heavily in clean energy technology development and deployment, and (d) it will not disproportionately impact different states. It doesn't get much clearer than how she lays it out there.

Will we succeed in crafting a policy that can win over the Technology Fifteen? For all our sakes, I sure hope so...

Click here for the full post at HuffingtonPost

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