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Ain’t that America?

4 Jun

E&E News’ Climatewire (subscription) asks the question this morning, “Will the Midwest turn its back on addressing climate change?”  Using Michigan as a jumping-off point (at 14 percent unemployment, you’d be jumping off too…), the article suggests that gubernatorial changes could result in backsliding on climate initiatives like regional greenhouse gas accords, renewable investments, etc:

The Great Lakes region is facing a potential 180-degree turn on energy and climate, with the governor’s races in Minnesota, Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan and Illinois ranked as tossups or “lean Republican” by analysts such as the Cook Political Report. Iowa, which abuts both Michigan and Illinois, also is in a too-close-to-call contest.

Couldn’t this phenomenon be better explained by the extremely tight budgets and skyrocketing unemployment in the Midwest, rather than party dynamics?  Michigan, Ohio, and Illinois are all well above the national unemployment rate of 9.7 percent.  On top of that, you have had many Republican and moderate Democrats also supportive of state climate initiatives, including Governor Schwarzenegger and former Governor Jon Huntsman Jr. of Utah, suggesting that the driving force is less partisan politics and more constituency demands. 

Furthermore, these heartland states, as hubs of manufacturing and other energy-intensive industries, have the most to lose under any regulatory program (whether regional, national, or international) restricting emissions. The Heritage foundation’s August 2009 analysis of the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill found that:

Because the distribution of energy-intensive jobs across the country is unequal, some states and congressional districts will be hit particularly hard. Notable among the most adversely affected states throughout the duration of the bill are: Wisconsin, Indiana, Minnesota, Iowa, New Hampshire, North Carolina, South Carolina, Idaho, and Alabama. Some states, such as Wyoming, North Dakota, Colorado, and Nebraska are most adversely affected when the policy first takes effect, while other states, such as Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee, are among the hardest-hit states by 2035.

There seems to be a fair amount of overlap between the most-affected states and the states potentially backsliding on climate change- all it took was a recession to convince them.  More state-by-state evidence is available from the National Association of Manufacturers/American Council for Capital Formation’s 2009 study of cap-and-trade impact, which found the following potential reductions in economic growth by 2030 for the aforementioned states under Waxman-Markey-style carbon constraints:

  • Iowa: Up to $4.9 billion
  • Illinois: Up to $24.1 billion
  • Michigan: Up to $16.5 billion
  • Minnesota: Up to $10.1 billion
  • Ohio: Up to $18.9 billion
  • Wisconsin: Up to $9.3 billion




3 Jun

The AP implies some sort of ideological impurity in conservatives/tea party activists* asking for federal assistance in dealing with the Gulf oil spill.  I know this sort of copy-and-paste journalism is easier than actually trying to understand either conservative political philsophy (as opposed to, say, anarchy) or thinking about the vapidity of the academics you are quoting, but come on.  Sigh:

Take Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a Republican elected in 2007 when Democrat Kathleen Blanco opted not to seek re-election after she was widely panned for a bumbling response to Hurricane Katrina two years earlier.

Since April 20, when a gulf rig exploded and blew out an underwater oil well about 50 miles south of Louisiana, Jindal has been a ubiquitous presence in the fishing communities and barrier islands along his state’s fragile coastline. He’s been out on boats and up in Blackhawk helicopters, doors open, to survey the spreading, rust-colored swath of crude.

Jindal, a possible 2012 presidential candidate, has demanded a stronger response from the Obama administration, accusing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers of dragging its feet in approving Louisiana’s plans for protective berms — a plan that took three weeks to approve.

“This oil threatens not only our coast and our wetlands, this oil fundamentally threatens our way of life in southeastern Louisiana,” Jindal said last week.

Jindal is a fiscal conservative who made headlines last year by rejecting some federal stimulus money, then distributing other stimulus funds by handing out oversized cardboard checks to local officials.

Louisiana State University political science professor Kirby Goidel said Jindal’s call for larger federal involvement in the oil spill management contradicts the governor’s usual persona.

“He’s governor largely because of Katrina,” Goidel said. “He knows that it’s important to get out on top of it and be clear if the federal government is not doing what it’s supposed to do. It’s important for people to know that.”

Goidel said he’s not surprised small-government conservatives would seek help from Washington in a disaster that threatens the Gulf’s water quality and everything that depends on it, from the shrimping industry to tourism.

“I think it’s a pretty predictable response: ‘We’ve got a problem that’s beyond our control. Get the federal government in here to take control,'” Goidel said.

Oi.  I’m not going to post a play-by-play of the federal failures that precipitated (caused?) the spill, as the facts on MMS mismanagement are not totally in and others have already done a better job than I am capable.  However, I will point out three things that bug the hell out of me about this piece:

1. You can’t seriously think that asking for federal assistance in cleaning up the spill violates some conservative ethic, can you?  Over the years, Republicans have talked about abolishing a number of federal programs, but I am almost certain that federal emergency assistance in response to crises emanating from federal lands wasn’t a high-priority target.  Add to this the fact that the number one complaint from Jindal was foot-dragging by the federal government to approve his coastal protection proposal for several weeks, and this theme seems even sillier.
2. In spite of his well-documented lack of State of the Union-responding abilities, I am a big fan of Governor Jindal.  He is not, though, a fire-breathing conservative nor a libertarian.  He is a pragmatic problem-solver with excellent managerial skills and mediocre public relations abilities.  The claim that “[h]e’s governor largely because of Katrina” is highly misleading.  His primary campaign was so convincing that he did not even need the nearly-automatic Louisiana runoff election, despite following a natural disaster of an emergency response that was, in large part, blamed on the incumbent Republican President (Did I mention that this was in 2007, in between national drubbings of by-the-book Republicans in ’06 and ’08?).
3. I understand the “gotcha” appeals of these “conservatives violate their small government principles!” stories every time a Republican Governor accepts federal money or a limited government conservative requests an earmark, but they are really uncompelling.  Any person, regardless of how ideologically committed, must make certain compromises and sacrifices in order to work within the system that exists at the time.  This conundrum is even more marked in the context of public officials that, in spite of their campaign themes, represent diverse constituencies.  I am no more troubled by Ron Paul’s earmarks or Governor Schwarzenegger accepting stimulus money than I am about Al Gore’s greenhouse gas emissions.
*Can we just call you all conservatives or libertarians yet?  I understand the desire to not be pinned down by partisan affiliation, but it would really reduce unnecessary verbiage, painful cable news specials by Chris Matthews on the “Rise of the New Right,” and confusing endorsements by random institutions claiming to speak for the movement.