Now that the dust has settled from the US midterm elections, it’s clear that in the energy world, nuclear power and oil and gas were winners, while the big loser was global warming.
Democrat Henry Waxman, co-sponsor of the failed cap-and-trade bill, will be out as chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee and Michigan Republican Fred Upton will be in. Upton loves nuclear power and claims that building new reactors would create jobs and meet America’s energy needs.
“Nuclear makes a lot of sense. There are no emissions.” But apparently Rep. Upton doesn’t count all the emissions from uranium mining. Not to mention a different kind of emissions from 10,000 years of radioactive waste.
And with Obama already proposing more than $30 billion in loan guarantees in his 2011 budget, look for big smiles in the nuclear industry. But since their plants are so expensive to build and so hard to finance and insure, the only way that America will see any nuclear renaissance is with massive public subsidies. Over the next two years, activists will need to take a page out of the Tea Party’s book to fight such wasteful government spending.
Meanwhile, corks are popping at the American Petroleum Institute. “We can play less defense,” one oil industry lobbyist told the Washington Post. “We can get more creative.” Look for more pushback on the EPA trying to regulate carbon emissions.
Gridlock could be good
It’s likely that House Republicans will eliminate the Select Committee on Global Warming and Energy Independence, which Democrats created four years ago. And as Republicans prepare to take control of the House, most of their incoming class of more than 100 freshman legislators flunk any basic test of climate awareness, according to the liberal blog Think Progress:
- 50% deny the existence of man-made climate change
- 86% are opposed to any climate change legislation that increases government revenue
On the plus side, cap-and-trade won’t be coming back zombie-like from the dead. This should make West Virginia’s new rifle-toting Senator Joe Manchin (“I’ll take dead aim at the cap-and-trade bill”) happy.
But it’s also good news for the climate, since as NASA’s James Hansen put it, cap and trade “does little to slow global warming or reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. It merely allows polluters and Wall Street traders to fleece the public out of billions of dollars.”
There’s probably little chance that Obama, even if he were to embrace the superior approach of a carbon fee-and-dividend plan favored by Hansen and Bill McKibben, could get it through what’s bound to be an obstructionist Congress for the next two years. But at least the door remains open to a better way in the future.
When it comes to energy and climate, inaction may be the best we can hope for out of Washington in the next two years. In the longer term, we need to demand better.
Meantime, let’s not wait for Washington to act. We don’t need permission from Congress to start now to prepare our local communities for a lower energy future.
For now, the left-leaning group People for the American Way did a funny 1950s-style video that summarizes well the positions of the incoming Congressional freshman class touching on energy and other issues.